- Directed by Peter Faint -
Two people sit at a remote picnic bench, surrounded by nature. Jon, who presents himself as a professional ‘dartist’ (an expert at playing darts), is complaining about life, and specifically his love relationship, to Frank, his best friend. After carefully pondering the situation, Frank’s response isn’t exactly what Jon had hoped for.
The first thing one will notice about this short film is the distinct atmosphere it creates right from the start. A very much on point cinematography combines with an eerie music punctuated by a low-toned, pervasive hum, and the result is a very unsettling, heavy ambiance, which situates itself in stark contrast with the open, well-lit environment and the casualness of the situation: a friendly chat, accompanied by a few cigarettes. Brilliantly introduced, this is maintained throughout the duration of the film by little details which underline the idiosyncratic character of Frank. Bizarre and borderline comical moments, such as when he casually decides to smoke three cigarettes in the same time, feel almost Lynchian within the context.
Unfortunately, while the technical and artistic sides of ‘Darts’ shine, the script and content itself does not. Writer and director Peter Faint doesn’t quite manage to fit in and expand the themes which his film explores in a way that is as remarkable as the other elements. Jon’s monologue takes a rather ironic tone: by stereotyping Phil, the man his wife apparently admires more than he feels comfortable with – and who sounds like a real jerk, as Frank notices – he also typecasts himself. He regards his ‘dartist’ occupation a bit too highly, and thinks he’s making great sacrifices by missing a practice session every week to be with his wife, but only sees a problem in her manner of behaving.
This gradually builds as a decent, if slightly overused scenario, which is only spiced by Frank’s fluctuations between insincere sympathy and quiet contemplation. However, this foundation is never built on: the ending revelation is interesting, but doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. Granted, it does cast a doubt on the very nature of Frank, but in the meantime, it only negates Jon’s propensity to externalize the roots of his problems, blaming the economic climate for everything that’s wrong with his life. Furthermore, John’s problem is not seeing things in a too black and white vision, but being a selfish and arrogant individual. Frank’s lesson feels out of touch.
Peter Faint’s project raises mixed feelings. On the one hand, a lot of effort has been put into what is ultimately and impeccable presentation style and an atmosphere built with much refinement. On the other hand, however, this outer shell fails to make the desired impact because of slightly unconvincing acting and writing which simply doesn’t click as it should. With an improved script quality, ‘Darts’ could potentially be quite a memorable experience.