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SHORT FILM REVIEW: Mango – London Short Film Festival

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Juli Blachoviak

Director: Scott Lazer

Showing as part of the London Short Film Festival, Scott Lazer’s new film takes a phone’s-eye-view of infidelity during a day in the life of a young woman searching for substance. Mango takes quite a different approach to his documentary short, Visitors, using a fictional scenario written by Juli Blachoviak to consider the low-level surveillance conducted by our phones.

Frustrated by snoring husband Gabe, Emma indulges in some graphic pornography on her phone before quietly waking Gabe with his favourite smoothie, all observed by the Smartphone she cannot put down. Later, when a message appears from Luke, Emma quickly leaves her teaching job and heads to his flat where she indulges her fantasies but at what cost?

As a narrative, Mango will certainly shock with two explicit sex scenes involving BDSM and hardcore fantasies that make for disturbing viewing in the first 11 minutes, and which are hard to stomach. Emma’s (Alyssa Block) engagement with these activities is consensual and Blachoviak’s screenplay, though a little stilted, explores the extremes of female desire ,which, for Emma, subsist in the dissatisfaction of routine and predictability within her marriage. A longer piece would better establish her character and needs without relying on the graphic impact of her sexual activity.

Nonetheless, Lazer’s directorial approach is what really gives Mango its edge, using a phone-sized screen as a window into Emma’s lifestyle, part constant and reliable companion providing connection and escape, part spy, documenting her life in excruciating and sometimes even mundane detail. And it is these two extremes that give the film a greater depth as the all-seeing eye of the phone screen captures all activity in the same unrelenting documentary style.

Part of the visual intrigue of the film comes from the different angles that a phone might see, so whether down by Emma’s side on the subway, face-up on a restaurant table as she converses with Gabe (Dan Godlin) above the device or propped up on the floor during her assignations with Luke (Nathaniel Ansbach), this creates a furtiveness that reinforces the notion of the phone as an interloper in Emma’s life.

The audience sits inside the phone, so messages, photos and videos appear in front of us as Emma scrolls through her social media feeds or hides messages from her lover. It works in this short-film format and while perhaps the storyline never quite matches the filming style, Mango certainly has interesting things to say about the devices we share every moment of our lives with.

Released on 19 January 2021

The London Short Film Festival runs from 15 – 24 January 2021

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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