Pearl (2016, Short)
Dir: Patrick Osborne
More than just a short film, this was originally developed as an ‘experience’ which I have partially tried and must say I really enjoyed that extra element.
Set within their car as they travel around the country, a father watches his daughter grow up and pursue her dreams with musical aspirations like his own.
Director Patrick Osborne made ‘Feast’ a few years ago which won the Oscar for best animated short. Here he returns with something a little more experimental. ‘Pearl’ is a VR experience, with 3D and full 360 degree rendering, intended to be viewed on a VR headset or with something like Google Cardboard. I don’t have those pieces of kit so I just watched it on YouTube with the ability to adjust the view as I liked, moving the ‘camera’ around to look wherever took my fancy. I have tried it a few times now and I don’t think I’ve missed much if any of the main points of interest, even picking up on smaller details and enjoying how the added ability changed the way I watched the characters and their surroundings.
Setting the film within this defined space of their car makes perfect sense but doesn’t limit the film, as being a car it moves and changes location. You could even watch it just looking out the front windscreen if you really wanted, it’d be a completely different film and you might miss almost all of what’s going on in the human characters lives but you would get the story of the car. The views out of the windows offer a lot of variety as well as putting the characters on a physical journey as much as a narrative one.
Also of note is the music, being as it is a story of people pursuing musical dreams it has a beautiful one song soundtrack throughout that ties everything together, narrating the story with the lyrics and setting the tone, adding even more charm.
I wouldn’t have minded an option to watch the ‘directors cut’ of it, the theatrically screened version that aimed the view exactly where the director thought was best for the Academy eligible short film, as the original VR version isn’t eligible. I did enjoy looking around the car and out the windows though, it’s very different and engaging, aided by the film having a clear and effective story that makes full use of the space rather than filling it will pointlessness or gimmicks.
Available to watch on YouTube here ‘Pearl’ is a wonderful film that perfectly merges the skill of storytelling with emerging technologies to benefit each other. I don’t think it’ll win the Oscar but I do think it should be seen and experienced in whatever way you can as it’s clearly a direction many shorts will be going in the future.