I’ve been a huge fan of Emil Johansson’s horror/gore works: not only has he shown a tremendous amount of acting range in “Swedish Horse Movie”, but his own directorial outings, such as “Unplanned Parenthood”, always carry a social message beyond what would, or could, be expected from a fun-n-guts-filled horror short. He’s now ventured into the comedy realm, directing “Coffee”, a piece that, at under 9 minutes, aims to share a slice of life and the nature of snobbish people. Does it succeed?
For the most part, I think it does so tremendously.
The acting is, to be quite frank, fantastic. The two main actors in particular show an amazing amount of acting chops in their facial expressions, something that is quite tough to do – quite famously, Michael Gambon, the famous British actor, was once hired to act in a solo play in which he simply sat listening to a tape. He did not utter a word. He had to express everything through body language and facial expressions. So, quite a feat, then, for a little short to pack this caliber of acting.
The direction is superb, too, but I am not surprised… rather, I am pleased to see that, even outside of his comfort zone, Emil manages to convey what the film needs in terms of cinematic language. Actually, this is a far more stylized approach to directing than one might expect from a horror short director doing comedy: beautiful bokeh, tons of subject separation, and really good colors.
I’m also a huge fan of the whole plot: two guys, having a coffee, talking about coffee from two different perspectives. You’ve got the snobbish coffee fan, and the regular, “normal” coffee drinker. Can they agree on anything? Is it better to be elitist about a drink? Or are people taking this, and much of everything else, way too seriously? It’s a good social commentary, and as always, it’s a welcome addition to a piece that could have easily been full of cheap gags.
I’m afraid to say that not all is perfect, however. My one and only gripe is quite a big one: the post-production. While the coloring is beautiful (as you can see from the title screen), the sound editing is, to be frank, poor. There are cues missed, even when the idea is to change the soundscape of the film, and the music drove me bananas because it kept repeating the same two beats over and over again. I know as well as anyone, being an indie filmmaker myself, that music is a very tricky and expensive thing to handle in a small production. But I feel like steps could have been taken to prevent ear fatigue and improve the sound design of the film.
Overall, “Coffee” is a fun commentary on snob culture and caring too much, or too little, about something. I really liked the acting, and the message, and in particular the photography. I was let down by the post-production, specifically the sound design and mixing, but I think it’s inherited by the director’s horror/gore/B-movie background. Another good outing by Emil Johansson then, and here’s hoping he’s got more of this coming down the pipeline.