I’ll be honest, as soon as I understood how this film was going to work I felt like backing out of watching it.
Cutaway, a Canadian film by Kazik Radwanski, depicts only the hands of a construction worker. It’s only seven minutes in length, six if you count the credits, and yet I still considered backing out. Then I noticed a subtle development in every single new shot. This wasn’t “experimental” in the sense that it was non-linear, or a bunch of abstract images where I’m meant to construct a narrative based on what I’m able to project. No, these are very carefully chosen, carefully crafted shots, used to manipulate the audience to great effect. We learn everything about this man. He’s a construction worker. He’s married to woman. They’re expecting a child. The fetus is in trouble. He’s a drinker. He’s having an affair. This, all through shots of the same man’s hands.
This short film is the right length. Had it been 10 minutes, 15, it would be too long. But six minutes is nothing, and it actually made me want more. I cared deeply enough about the couple and their child that when Radwanski drops the second bomb that the man’s having an affair I said “oh… no…” out loud. Like a moron. But this is a writer-director at work, with a story (and maybe what could be called a gimmick) that works. The gimmick grabs our attention and the story keeps it.
I’ve said this about other shorts, but Cutaway could be used as a lesson in visual storytelling. There’s little to no dialogue; the couple’s doctor speaks, and we see a text conversation.
I dare to make this pun: With Radwanski… we’re in good hands.