Review - "Revealed" by Michelle Yao & Tan Yun Ting (Viddsee Series)

SINdie continues with its regular weekly reviews of selected short films from Viddsee, an online platform for filmmakers and viewers of Southeast Asian films. 

"Revealed" is the story of Brandon (Bobby Tonelli) and Jamie (Debra Teng), a good-looking, newly engaged yuppie couple living together. When Brandon's secret is suddenly revealed to his fiancée, the couple's domestic bliss suddenly unravels.


In its first half, "Revealed" suffers from a weak build-up. The film opens on a small party. The television plays a video montage of Brandon and Jamie's friends wishing them a happy engagement. Brandon officially proposes to Jamie in front of their guests. A tipsy friend, searching for the bathroom, instead chances upon a locked door. The film warms up slowly, with this opening sequence feeling rather artificial, obviously constructed to set in motion the plot. It is as though the leads take a while to warm up on screen, with the dialogue delivery initially rather stilted -- it does not quite come across as the mundane, comfortable chatter of lovers familiar with each other but feels like lines are being recited.


Through belaboured exposition Brandon is shown to be a lawyer, ostensibly a successful one given his crisp shirts, high-rise office and flashy sports car. However, this seems rather at odds with the work he is actually shown doing. His interactions with a fussy client seeking a divorce are mined for laughs, but do not elicit many, for the sullen tai tai with her nail polish, condescending attitude and exaggerated accent is neither charmingly flighty nor outlandishly annoying. Only in a second appearance does her character's purpose become apparent; it is hinted that Brandon is agitated—even disturbed—when someone shouts at him, even if that person is so obviously a caricature of petulance.

Yet, "Revealed" is worth persisting with as it improves considerably in the second half, once the plot is properly set in motion with Jamie's accidental discovery of Brandon's secret. It is suspenseful, and then touching, to watch as Jamie opens the now unlocked door, switches on the light, and goes through a range of emotions: curiosity, then confusion, and then surprise, delight and tenderness as she sees what she assumes is evidence of her fiancé's nurturing desires, of his wish to start a family together. Of course, the truth is far darker, stemming from something far longer unresolved. The sense of urgency is successfully built up with effective editing that cuts between the frantic shots of Brandon rushing home and Jamie's cautious exploration of the room.


The scenes that follow within the confines of the storeroom build up far more convincingly to a tense climax. Set design is a strong feature of "Revealed", with the limited physical space effectively used in this sequence in particular. The amount of white used—the white walls, the actors' white shirts—upon which a sickly yellow glow is cast by the lighting, with the garishly coloured toys scattered around the tight space, makes everything feel more sinister.

"Revealed" began awkwardly, but is not a wasted watch for the actors, Tonelli in particular, do eventually ease into their characters sufficiently that they evoke sympathy. Ultimately, "Revealed" is a creditable effort that does make its point—about a serious subject, no less—but it would be stronger with tighter editing that omitted unnecessary scenes intended to inject humour for the sake of it.

Watch "Revealed" here on Viddsee

Review by Aditi Shiva

Aditi Shiva works as an editor and is partial to semicolons. If her life were a movie, it'd be an animated indie Bollywood rom-com.

***

About Viddsee
Viddsee is an online video platform for filmmakers and audience of Southeast Asian short films. Built and designed by engineers and filmmakers, Viddsee enables users to easily discover, watch and share stories from Southeast Asia on their desktop and mobile devices. Our vision is to continually grow the community of short film audiences to enable a wide and accessible market reach for short films and become the leading micro-cinema platform for Asia.

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