By Stephen Kerns (Asheville, NC)
Currently touring the film festival circuit, with a planned 2021 streaming release is THREE QUARTERS, the latest offering from North Carolina based production house A Stranger Concept Films. Written and produced by Adam York, and directed by Dave Harlequin, the film stars York alongside Arianna Tysinger (Ford v Ferrari, Sea Salt Wind), Bill Mulligan (Kill Giggles, Blood of the Mummy), and longtime indie cinema veteran David G. Holland.
The story centers around Jack (York) a recently disabled construction worker, who following a drunk driving accident, lost his leg to amputation. We follow Jack throughout his day as he travels to his office, attends a virtual visit with his doctor, meets with his friend in a park, goes to dinner at a restaurant, and ultimately heads home for the day, all the while being followed, or to use a more apropos term, stalked by a strange, faceless man in a black robe who constantly taunts and berates him at every turn, although it seems that Jack is the only one who can hear him. As the story progresses and tension builds, Jack is ultimately faced with an intense confrontation, which is as uncomfortable as it is cathartic for both the character and the viewer. This was clearly a very personal story for York, who himself was a real-life amputee prior to his tragic death a few weeks after the completion of this film, and both the story and his performance in it really highlights that and comes across as very vulnerable, yet also very powerful and inspiring at the same time. While I myself am not disabled, I can only imagine the courage it must have taken to not only tell such a story, but to also act it out on screen, and he should really be commended for that.
Clocking in at 23 minutes, this is by all technical terms a short film, although it is much longer than your average short, and honestly feels much more like a television episode of old (it would have fit nicely among many of the old anthology series of yesteryear). The production value is outstanding, with exceptional lighting and camerawork and a brilliant score from composer Neil Lee Griffin. It’s clear that this film really tried to make the most of its limited budget and really maximized what an independent film could accomplish during a global pandemic. Every cast member plays their roles remarkably, each highlighting various levels of discomfort when dealing with Jack, as Jack tries to go about his day as though nothing has changed in his life, and really shines an honest, sincere, and much-needed light on what these interactions must be like for disabled people in a way that only a disabled person could really tell.
While not the first film from Harlequin and York, this is the first in which the duo has switched their typical roles, with York writing and Harlequin directing, and despite being in uncharted territory, this quite possibly might be their best work to date. Overall, THREE QUARTERS is at its core a brave, sincere, and at times brutally honest story that is equal parts uncomfortably vulnerable and inspiringly powerful. While there are a few obvious budget and pandemic limitations, it’s unfair to hold those against what is otherwise a fantastic story and brilliant bit of bite-sized cinema. I for one very much enjoyed this film and cannot wait to see where this talented tandem of indie filmmakers goes next, because there is clearly a lot of promise and potential from these burgeoning artists.