23 July, 2016

"Jasmine" Review - Macon Film Festival (***)

Jason Tobin stars in "Jasmine."

First-time director Dax Phelan crafts a tense but often meandering mystery in "Jasmine." Phelan is more than capable of setting the tone for the increasingly unsettling thriller but the story lacks complexity.

Jason Tobin plays Leonard To, a grieving widower whose wife was murdered the previous year. Leonard is in pain. Walking the streets of Hong Kong at night, he is very much alone and very much in his own head. With blurred lights in the distance and bustling streets, the city is a character of its own. Hong Kong—and Phelan’s ability to capture it—lends a lot to the film. Tobin is fantastic as the miserable, confused and angry Leonard. His wife’s murder is still unsolved and while the police seem to have given up, the lack of closure haunts him.

The plot kicks into high gear when Leonard sees a man standing, staring at his wife’s grave. Leonard starts following this mystery man and becomes increasingly convinced that he is responsible for his wife’s death. As Leonard creeps around the city in pursuit of the truth, his sanity starts to slip as things become less and less clear. Phelan utilizes hand-held camera work to really put you into the drama. There’s a sense of claustrophobia throughout which helps up the tension. That tension however is often short-lived due to a number of long, meditative scenes in which nothing really seems to happen.

One of the film’s biggest problems is that it seems to be trying to stretch out the story for no apparent reason. There’s no doubt in my mind that "Jasmine" would have made a fantastic 20-minute short. The film would have resonated and the twist ending would have hit even harder. Along with all around great performances, the best part of "Jasmine" is the filmmaking. Weighed down by a subpar story, the film still managed to win me over and Dax Phelan is absolutely a talent to watch.

3 out of 5 stars.

"Jasmine" screened at the 2015 Savannah Film Festival and the 2016 Macon Film Festival on Saturday, July 23 at 10:00 AM and Sunday, July 24 at 10:00 AM.

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