Jason Jeffrey’s short, A Teachable Moment, amounts to more than just a moment. There are grains of wisdom throughout the film, thanks to an attention to detail in dialogue.
A wounded, dying man (Ash Catherwood) explodes from a farmhouse accompanied by a bombastic guitar-drum pairing (Ben Fox scores), gets in his truck, and drives through country roads until he reaches what looks like a good spot to lie down. Just as he succumbs to the pain and knowledge he’s going to die, a glimmer of hope comes in the form of a passing car. Without a word, the driver, a young woman (Grace Glowicki, on fire), takes control of the situation, but not in the way you’d think. As the dying man asks for a drive to the hospital, she ignores him, plucks her young son (Ethan Tavares) from the front passenger’s seat – which is not very safe practice, ironically – and drags him over to the man.
She attempts to wring a lesson from the situation, but knows it will fall on deaf ears unless she gets the dying man himself to help. She says she’ll drive him to the hospital if he volunteers answers about his situation. It’s a premise you might find on Saturday Night Live, or in a book of Woody Allen short stories.
The young boy, probably scarred for life in the wrong way rather than the right thanks to seeing a dying mean bleed on the road, continually attempts to wriggle free from her mother’s iron grasp. She works both ends.
She throws question after question at the dying man (How did you get here? Why are you here? Who shot you? Why did they shoot you? Do you have any advice for my impressionable son?). In response to the last question, he says, “don’t get shot”. The mother breaks this down immediately. His wound is not important. How he got his wound is important.
Jason Jeffrey does two things that I think buoy the short into success: He favours medium-wide shots, so we focus less on the visual and more on the meat of the words, and he allows the mother to pick at the tiny mistakes in the dying man’s sentences, because she knows which phrases actually contain information, and which feel like stock – and stock does little for her son’s still-moldable brain.
The result of these moving parts is a pleasure, and if not a teachable lesson for the audience, a lesson in smart filmmaking.
Image Courtesy of Castlelass