Dances With Films 2016: ‘Pop’ – Film Review

In recent years, there’s been a bit of a stigma against clowns. Rather than the traditional portrait of funny, friendly, silly caricatures whose main goal is to make us laugh, they’re most often portrayed as grotesque, evil monsters. I’ve never liked this hostility towards clowns, particularly since I used to perform as a clown myself, as did my mother. Fortunately, it would appear that I’m not alone in my views. Karen McPherson, the writer/director of the short film Pop, feels much the same way and said so during a Q&A at Dances With Films, where the film screened recently.

Bruno (Simon Conlon) is a clown who’s down on his luck. We open with him performing his act at a birthday party, to a crowd of children who are bored at best and openly hostile at worst. When one of his tricks ends in tears, he goes home in despair and disgrace. After a strange and troubling dream, Bruno ends up falling and hurting himself, sending him to the emergency room. There, however, his luck may finally start to turn around.

This film takes a little while to get going, but once it does, it’s a lot of fun and very sweet. The story is told almost entirely without words, relying instead on the physical comedy talents of Conlon and his co-star, Briar Seyb-Hayden. Fortunately, both are very talented and very funny, even without a word.

I always find it difficult to describe the plots of short films. Since there’s so little screen time, even a sentence or two could venture into spoiler territory. Pop is a little different in that regard, though. The point isn’t so much the plot, as the characters, and the physical, visual aspect of the film. Even if you know what’s going to happen, it’s not the same as seeing it unfold before you. I watched it twice, myself—once at home as a screener, and once in the theater during its actual premiere at the festival—and I enjoyed it just as much when I knew what was going to happen as when I didn’t. Perhaps even more so.

All-in-all, Pop is a small, strange film that’s sweet and funny and guaranteed to make you smile. I highly recommend it.

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