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Ghost of a Chance [Manes Duerr, USA, 2019]

Never give up on your dreams. Many of us are told this repeatedly from a young age well into adulthood. Following a soon-to-be father on the brink of achieving his childhood aspirations, Ghost of a Chance poses the seldom-asked question: when should you give up? The film stars Emily Labowe and Nathan Varnson as two expecting parents struggling to make ends meet. When the latter has to choose between helping his girlfriend through a worrying stage of pregnancy or taking a stab at professional car racing, all three futures are at stake.

The short is effectively shot, flashing between the racing track and the family home. This presents the imbalance in the relationship well, portraying what Labowe’s character is giving up and what Varnson’s won’t. As an expensive looking sports car zooms effortlessly around the track, the pregnant girlfriend talks about a recurring nightmare in which, “all you want to do is just go somewhere. You don’t move or run or jump.”

The juxtaposition between this fear of stasis and the luxury of driving fast just because you can highlights often gendered inequalities in relationships. This image is emphasised when Labowe’s character lingers before a mounted deer head on the wall, eternally housebound. Similarly, this technique works well in depicting the risk of pregnancy. As the image flips between the roaring racetrack and a hot bath, it seems obvious which of the two is risking their lives. But when the scene jolts to a halt, it is the woman who’s in danger.

The tension this causes between the characters is well depicted by a blazing row. Electric acting from both Varnson and Labowe, as well as a scorching script, successfully express the high octane emotions. Despite the fact that the story seems to be sympathetic to women’s issues, it might have been more refreshing not to have cast a female character as the nagging, dream-crushing girlfriend. Gesturing to the modest kitchen, she berates him: ‘None of this is ours’, but it’s not quite clear why that is. Perhaps exploring the back story to their current situation a bit more thoroughly would give more substance to the situation we find them in, which would, in turn, make the emotional friction even more resonant.

As the film closes, their relationship remains unclear, yet the gloomy palette of darkening greys, blues, and blacks combined with an ominous piano do not suggest a happy ending. This feels appropriate – it’s not a happy story and it doesn’t have a simple solution. In a mere ten minutes, Ghost of a Chance manages to convey the unsolvable complications and deep injustices that occur in our everyday lives.


'Ghost of a Chance' was part of the Official Selection at Short Focus Film Festival 2020 and is available to watch now on FLTV.


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