Science-fiction is well-represented at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival with the short film “The Escape,” written and directed by Academy Award winner Paul Franklin. This is Franklin’s directorial debut starring Julian Sands, Art Malik, Olivia Williams, and Ben Miller, but it’s sure not to be his last. His vision and ability to create an absolutely mesmerizing scenario that ends with a wildly realistic punch, gives us the hope that Franklin will continue writing and directing.
In a time not far in the future, an ordinary man seeks to live out his wildest fantasy, giving him a chance to live in a different world, “a place where a man could be free.” Lambert (Sands) finds this outlawed memory travel agency, reminiscent of “Total Recall,” and learns about the possibilities of experiences and memories he will have. Lambert is willing to give Kellan (Malik), everything he has to experience this escapism, but the price he pays is more than just monetary.
Lambert is an ordinary man, living an ordinary life, with an ordinary family. He’s bogged down in the routine of everyday life. His wife and he seem to be experiencing difficulties, much like any other couple married for a couple of decades. He is the father of two children and while you can see the love he has for them, you can also feel how they zap his energy. Life has become monotonous with nothing to satisfy him and nothing to look forward to. In other words, he’s just like everyone else in this world. “In the life we live these days, there’s little hope for dreaming,” says Kellan.
This is an exquisitely complicated scenario, one that we can all place ourselves. Franklin places this typical family in London where unprecedented flooding is taking place, perhaps a result of climate change. He brings us inside the thoughts and emotions of Lambert as he attempts to weigh the pros and cons of taking this possible memory trip. The dark and dank environment of Kellan’s surroundings juxtaposed with the beauty and saturated colors of life mark a symbolic representation of what lies ahead. Franklin gives us ominous foreshadowing of what’s to come, but we don’t understand it all until the very end.
Sands is the star of this film, giving an emotional performance of a nearly broken man. We feel his pain and empathize with his fears. His interaction with his wife, his empty reassurances to his son, and his lost soul pours from his heart. It is the final scene that we can put this hauntingly disturbing yet realistic puzzle together where we find guilt and terror—emotions worth escaping. Supporting Sands is Malik’s portrayal of Kellan. His almost sinister yet somehow caring and sincere affect create a compelling combination with Sands character. Williams embodies the role of wife and mother with natural skill and together, this cast gives us a memorable film.
As it is with many short films, “The Escape” could easily (and should be) a full-length feature film. The characters’ development, while complete for the short, could add another level of interest and complexity. Alas, I cannot give away any spoilers to this intellectually stimulating and imaginative story, but the possibilities for a feature film are definitely there.
For more information about seeing this film at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, go to Tribeca Film Guide
giving where brings Kellan (Malik)
“A place where a man could be free, free from the life from which you are chained.”