Three high school friends have been the victims of bullying for a long time but the sudden discovery of a mysterious, perhaps supernatural ability may help them overcome the situation – if, that is, all of them live through a traumatic ordeal in director Rob Grant’s gripping short film What Doesn’t Kill You. Top-notch performances and a taut, compelling story highlight this Canadian science-fiction thriller.
As Marshall (Connor Jessup), Leonard (Alex Harrouch), and Dermot (Aidan Greene) drive to their school’s prom, they are harassed by bullies who have previously driven two of the boys to the brink of suicide. Marshall harbors a newfound secret that makes him less afraid of the situation than the others, and emboldens him to coax Leonard and Dermot to challenge the bullies. An act of recklessness on his part leads to the boys being victims of a fiery car crash, but this could be a turning point for the trio if Leonard and Dermot can bring themselves to believe Marshall’s outrageous sounding story, which calls for an act of violence that may be a fatal gamble.
Rob Grant and cowriter Stuart Marks have fashioned a story that packs a great deal into its tight 13 minutes and leaves viewers with questions in the best possible way. Both audience and characters have the same amount of information about the secret onto which Marshall has stumbled, and viewers share many of the same questions that plague the confused boys in the group. The approach works well for the short as both a stand-alone film and also as a calling card for opening up this world and telling more about it in a feature film. I’m intrigued by the mysteries that surround the boys’ newly discovered abilities and I would really enjoy seeing Grant and Marks expand this idea.
Connor Jessup is terrific as Marshall, who quite unexpectedly finds that he wields a power about which people can only dream. Alex Harrouch is great in his audience surrogate role of Leonard, wanting what is best for a suffering friend but unable to fully trust his other friend in what sounds like an act of madness. Aidan Greene is also solid in his portrayal of Dermot, who has the most to lose among the trio in multiple senses of the expression.
The production values are great in What Doesn’t Kill You (http://cfccreates.com/productions/237-what-doesn-t-kill-you) and director/cowriter Rob Grant shows a keen talent for building and sustaining suspense. He is aided superbly by Greg Biskup’s eye-popping cinematography and Victor C.H. Fan’s crisp editing. Grant is a fine talent and a director to watch, whether he has an opportunity to build on the world of this short or branch out into totally different projects.
What Doesn’t Kill You: (4 / 5)