SHORT FOCUS 2019: The Ride [Kacper Anuszweski, Poland, 2017]
It’s late, it’s cold and the bar has closed. You’re standing alone in an empty street when a car pulls up, winds down the window and a stranger says your name. Your Uber has arrived. While many people can probably relate to the slight feeling of unease when stepping into an unknown person’s car, we probably rarely think about the driver. Yet we too are strangers and could be just as threatening to them as they sometimes are to us. The Ride highlights this mutual vulnerability in a surprising story of revenge and responsibility.
What makes this film interesting is the way it jolts from one genre into another. It begins as a muted slice-of-life affair with a bleak colour palette of gentle greys and low-key conversations. We expect that the relationship between the driver and the passenger will develop into some kind of meaningful friendship, perhaps they will both learn a little something from this chance encounter. This unsuspecting set-up makes the instant transition into a thriller all the more effective. In a second, the film is thwacked into a whole different tone and the viewer can look back and pick up the carefully laid clues that lead to this moment.
Although this moment is a good example of skilful filmmaking, after we discover the truth about both characters they oddly become less interesting. This could be because they fall into two cookie cutter characters: the once wronged avenger and the victim with a dodgy past (Matt Palmer’s Scottish thriller, Calibre [UK, 2018], is a master class in this).
Moreover, there is something disturbing about the eye-for-an-eye mentality that the film portrays. While taking revenge for loved ones unjustly harmed is often portrayed as noble (think Liam Neeson’s steely masculine in Taken [Pierre Morel, USA, 2008]), what the avenger does is arguably a lot worse and certainly more sadistic than the offence committed by the driver. However, in a final haunting twist, the film changes once more and stops itself from becoming clichéd.
Kacper Anuszweski’s work triumphs in its quiet build up to its pivotal moment. Brilliant acting by Grzegorz Kowalczyk and Lukasz Nowicki, who play the driver and the passenger respectively, also contributes to this short’s success. While these skills could have been put to better use with a more original storyline, this film will definitely make you think twice before calling a taxi.
'The Ride' is part of the Official Selection at Short Focus Film Festival 2019.