Midlands Review - Shame My Name
Directed by A R Ugas
AR Ugas’ short film Shame My Name is a first part in a series called “Chronicles" and is about a young man and his Albanian girlfriend. It centres on him meeting her father and trying to make a good first impression. The girlfriend initially resists and grows weary of her boyfriend’s repeated requests for him to meet her dad; and we all know how nerve wrecking it is to introduce your partner to your parents.
The opening scene is shot near a window inside a flat. I assume the use of natural light was beneficial for the camera crew, but it read a bit like a student-made short and too basic. Watching it a second time, I could see the girlfriend was standing near the window to keep an eye out for her dad and appears quite bothered that the boyfriend is still hanging around before her dad is due. Their relationship to her father is still secretive even after them being together for a good few years and the boyfriend felt it was time to make himself known to her family.
The atmosphere seemed a little flat, even subtle body language movements such as the girlfriend biting her nails could show a jittery tone without anyone saying a thing. The writing 100% drove the story and that was it. Something visual was needed and I would have enjoyed seeing more of the flat and the potential for different settings. The bedroom is a perfect environment for an intimate and caring scene between two people who love each other. Or maybe show a playful moment in the kitchen with some light-hearted banter. Any interaction with their surroundings is ten times more interesting than a 2D conversation facing each other near a window.
As mentioned before, the script was heavy with detail and in the first five minutes you find out the dad works for a security camera company, he’s Albanian, the couple have been dating for a while and on the surface, and everything seems to be pretty stable.
Before even watching the short, I was expecting a bigger influence of Albanian culture to be present. The title alone is nicely curious as it plays with identity, and considering AR Ugas’s rich life experiences and ability to speak four languages fluently, I was surprised to see a lack of culture identity that the father seems so obsessed with.
The second half focuses on the dad and the boyfriend with their initial meeting set out like an intimidating job interview, with the father asking standard questions like “tell me about yourself". Corey Thompson who plays Michael the boyfriend does an excellent job of performing as an awkward, but sort-of-confident guy as he takes the questions in his stride.
Again, everything is playing out somewhat predictably, so much so that you don’t realise Michael is being lured into a false sense of security. The mood suddenly switches, the camera turns to wide angle for that uneasy feel and it really is a deer in the headlights kind of moment for Michael and us. The immediate transformation to a darker tone is unpredictably wonderful and the story became much more compelling.
Tensions rise and the music is as unsettling as the scene, it is all very intriguing as to what’s going to happen next. What impressed me the most was Thompson’s ability to go from meek and mild boyfriend to knight in shining armour in a matter of seconds. His character went as far as sacrificing himself for the prosperity of his girlfriend and even defending her family’s honour and name. This was a huge jump to switch so quickly and swiftly that it really did take me by surprise, mainly because nothing in the first half of the short indicated that the boyfriend was so loyal and devoted.
There were clues to the dad’s hidden security camera background and a touch upon his Albanian culture, but nothing about Michael being an understanding and courageous man. As far as the audience knew, he was just a young lad trying to make a good impression with his girlfriend’s dad with a slight culture clash.
All of the actors did a great job and I got pulled into the scenes a lot more during the dramatic parts of the short. It was fascinating to see how both Corey Thompson and James Bryhan who plays the father could so easily switch their personalities.
I’m looking forward to seeing more short stories as part of Chronicles as I’m curious to see what links them all. Considering AR Ugas’s own background and interest in many cultures and languages, I’d love to see a bigger impact and influence of this through his films.