You’ll Know My Name

| May 29, 2012

At some level, this is a story that is probably relatable to a lot of people.  The plot centers around a group of high school kids who are waiting around for a big fight.  On one side, we have our hero, Nick (Joe Raffa, who also wrote and directed the film) and his entourage, and on the other side we have Mike Santo (Alexander Mandell), a somewhat legendary tough guy in this seemingly small town.  Viewers see Nick and his friends gearing up for the fight while the backstory for why they’re there is shown through flashbacks.  So, what has Nick and Mike at each other’s throats?  A girl – Christina Sage (Mianna Saxton).  Christina goes back and forth between the two boys throughout the film, first dating Mike, then Nick, and then back to Mike, which forces Nick to defend his honor and call out Mike into a confrontation.  By the way, Mike has no idea who Nick is.  So, yes, the film does have some relatable themes:  love and loss, teenage angst, and pretty good triumphing over kind of evil.

So, there is something at least structurally sound here.  The story unfolds in a fairly fluid way, the flashbacks work well without forcing exposition down the audience’s throat, and the acting all around is far from the worst I’ve ever seen.  However, the film is not good, and I believe the reason for that mostly falls on the incredibly lazy script.  A lot of the characters are boring archetypes (the quiet hero, the slutty girlfriend, the macho thug, the sex-crazed best friend, etc).  There’s not really anyone to root for, but the audience will probably hate Nick the least, so that helps.  The problem with his character is that he himself isn’t a decent person.  While he’s dating Christina, we see a series of paranoid delusions about her and Mike.  Granted, she does break up with Nick and go back to Mike, but we can’t infer from what we see that she’s a bad person; it’s just as plausible that Nick drove her away with his jealousy.  I’m inclined to believe the latter and it makes it hard to sympathize with his character.

The one thing I find really interesting about this film is the concept of reputation.  We get a lot of exposition about the characters through gossip and similar interactions between other people.  It’s a good way to build up characters to the audience and it allows for Raffa to play with things like unreliable narration, so there’s a definite power to having a character’s reputation make him powerful rather than showing us how powerful he can be.  On the other hand, having character-defining moments, and the actions of a character clarify what he’s capable of to the audience is textbook good writing, and while I find Raffa’s approach interesting, I was disappointed in how unassuming the Mike Santa character was when he was finally introduced.

The other really lazy thing about this film is that none of the characters change over the course of the film.  At all.  Everyone is exactly the same from the beginning frame to the last with the possible exception that Nick seems to get some closure in the final moments of the film – he’s much less angry and tense, but anyone who’s ever been dumped by a person who they loved knows that getting over that person isn’t as simple as beating up her new boyfriend.  Had the film continued on to the next day even, it would have been too unbelievable that Nick would just be over Christina that easily.  Obviously, it’s awkward to criticize a part of the film that doesn’t exist, so I’ll just say again that the lack of character arcs, the lack of any sort of change or realization or epiphany in Nick is very lazy writing, and completely ruins the film.

Joe Raffa’s laziness even spreads to the naming of his characters.  His character, Nick, has a brother, Joey, who is played by Joe’s real life brother, Nick.  This is at most cute, but far more likely just a lack of creative energy on the part of our writer/director.  It might also indicate that this is based on real events, but Joe felt obligated to shift the names around so he could play with fictional elements and distance himself from what really happened.  Impossible to say.

I can’t respond to any special features the DVD may have because Breaking Glass Pictures only sent me a copy of the film burned onto a disc.  Given the film’s low budget, I imagine there are no special features anyway.

Available on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures on May 29

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.

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