SHORT FILM REVIEW: How Does It Start
HOW DOES IT START— 4 STARS
There is a wide dichotomy of sensation that is defined by the age of the observer for any given triggering topic. Say “chocolate” and a child’s eyes light up without a thought of health-minded consequence. An adult’s eyes might do the same for a second but with limitation and reservation to follow. Say “kissing” and a kid might exclaim “ewww!” and “gross!” while an adult might blush with titillation or tighten with anxiety. Say “sex” to that age gap and you will see a powder keg of censorship, frazzle, further questions, and consternation. That right there is a triggering topic for young eyes and ears that need an honest adult’s guidance to clear up the explosive smoke.
In the provocative short film How Does it Start from director Amber Sealey, a young teen girl in 1983 named Rain, played by Lola Wayne Villa, has been introduced to topic of sex without such positive elder counsel. The wheels have turned. The curiosities have sparked. The peers have stoked the fire. The triggers have all gone off and this girl wants the mystery of what has been made out to be so taboo and important to growing up as a real woman.
The short film, written and directed by Sealey (How to Cheat, No Light and No Land Anywhere), walks us through the humid and haunting haze of this girl. Her observations veer from her sh-tty and volatile parents to the attention she gets or seeks from her equally inspired and curious peers. Lindsay Beamish plays the mother in a frightening performance of hair-trigger rage mirrored next to the smudged innocence and silence of the daughter. In the absence of information and enlightenment, Rain tries to emulate what sees adults do and is left to her own devices to sort out complexities that are flying over her head.
LESSON #1: THE INTERPRETATION OF AFFECTIONS — Rain doesn’t understand the difference between “love” and “affection,” especially in their physical forms. Unfiltered, she sees sex as the summit of some undefinded mountaintop that starts with touching and kissing. To her, it all sounds fun, when we know the unfun dangers. Without advisement, save for a tawdry “So You Want a Man…”-level advice novel feeding her brain, she is being led in the wrong direction so often. Where you learn these social graces and private feelings matters.
LESSON #2: IMAGINE LIVING IN THAT OBSERVANT SKIN — If you’re an adult watching How Does It Start, you cannot help but remember your own clarity, confusion, wonder, and burning questions about carnal matters when you were that age. Right beside the main character, the imagery of this film may cause you to compare your own first experiences, right down to the rushes and risks of excitement, fear, discovery, and ecstasy. With voiceover and voyeuristic cinematography by Ava Berkofsy, the short film ingeniously puts the viewer inside the flush and crawling epidermis of Rain, complete with all the flickering discomfort and racing thoughts.
The cloud light score from previous Sealey collaborator Jeffrey Brodsky and Animal Kingdom dup of Samuel Jones and Alexis Marsh create an expansive mood that enrobes the short film in atmosphere just on the edge of temptation and peril. The overall mood adroitly massages all of your worries and you truly cannot take your eyes off the screen. For those cautious parents out there, these might be some of the longest and most chest-palpitating 16 minutes of your adulthood. Kudos to the tight editing of Patrick Nelson Barnes to hone this into a short.
Artistically striking with its challenges, How Does it Start is a reminder of how the uninformed see the world and it is rightfully jarring. Young Lola Wayne Villa’s nearly solo performance is shattering. To put her in that position with poise, this is a bold and intriguing filmmaking effort from Amber Sealey. Let’s see both talents expand even more.