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Ethan: Film Review

Nobody likes to be pigeon-holed, especially Ethan Hill who receives a lackluster read from a fortune teller in the short film, Ethan. Instead of existing in his new fate, Ethan Hill attempts to outrun it by changing his name and zodiac sign to impress the new neighbor, Emma, of course. Little does he know that tempting fate has unforeseen consequences.

In this awkward, offbeat comedy about identity, Ethan reveals a deep truth about humanity, that being yourself is easier said than done, especially when your birthday “lacks the element of water which means your sex life is gonna be meeeh” according to your fortune teller.

For a comedy, Cinematographer William Yuan made an interesting choice to go with low lighting, like something more out of a horror film or a drama. It added a sense of mystery and begged the question, if this were turned into a feature, would it become something a bit more sinister? Unfortunately, the dark lighting only offered a distanced connection to Dee Who playing the Fortune Teller which was a slight shame as he performed his role with such chutzpah.

Even though you may miss some of Who’s facial expressions, the comedy comes through in terms of dialogue and body language. Dee Who’s character seems to play on Chinese mysticism as part of a bit. While he draws you in with the methodical way he reads his fortune book, he dishes out terrible news like “you’ve got some bad stuff coming over the…uhhh…next decade” with such nonchalance. It’s a very fun contrast, like a character straight out of groundlings who is both mysterious and casual.

Leo Volf and Talia Camilleri also deliver as the dorky lovestruck renter and his ingénue, respectively. Camilleri has a decidedly fun twist to her stock role, however, that makes you appreciate her assertiveness when the characters really get to know one another. Volf feels relatable, and will probably conjure up a time in viewers’ minds of when they too acted a fool to impress someone they liked. We’ve all wanted to seem cool to others at one point in time, but we forget that the best way to do that is often just being honest.

Eureka Sun offers a slice of the city giving off hipster east coast apartment vibes in her production design which seems to play up the idea of feigning coolness, central to Ethan’s theme. Meanwhile, the sound mixing done by Esther Liu, although on the low side, was smooth, captured the nuance of the performances, and the punk rock anthem blasting at the end provides a fun end credit bop worth sitting through.

Director Taoquan Fu delights the screen as a first time director on this student film project. He has that trademark indie feel to his filmmaking that had me wanting to sip a latte and wax poetic about Nietzsche with the rest of the cast. His subtle comedy feels grounded, relatable, and I look forward to watching whatever he conjures up next via fortune teller or not.


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