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Phantom Questions: Screenplay Review

A grieving son Benny offers himself the chance to reconnect with his deceased mother in Phantom Questions, a short screenplay written by Andreas Mortensen. In this offbeat dramedy, Benny digs up his mother’s body and brings it to a haunted house in order to reanimate her spirit.


Unlike his father, Ken, Benny wants to feel closure over his mother’s passing. In fact, Benny has a specific list of questions to ask his mother. But what Benny finds in the haunted house is another ghost who hasn’t reached closure either. Through slice-of-life like storytelling, Benny learns of the ghost’s loneliness and regrets. While Benny may never be able to get the answers he so craves, he at least is able to find connection in the midst of grief.


Mortensen’s characters are charming in that they feel relatable, but don’t quite react in the way that humans (or phantoms) do. They exist in their own strange reality, one where apparently it is normal to dig up your dead mom, one where a father is perfectly comfortable “boxing” his wife’s corpse in the face to avoid his own emotions. It’s akin to watching a Wes Anderson film, where there might suddenly be a musical break, talking animals, or the kids that think and act like adults.


The story is theme as opposed to plot driven. While not a great deal happens, there is still emotion and purpose in the story. Each character is dealing with grief in their own way. Benny is in denial of reality, Ken is avoiding grief. Benny’s friend Alfons is finding an outlet, i.e. a text message to his ex-girlfriend, to reach closure. Benny and Alfons are like foils to one another, only Alfons’ tactic to reach peace is a little more based in reality.


The phantom is also a foil to Benny’s real mom. Like Benny, the phantom has also lost someone close: her daughter. Unlike Benny, though, she does get a chance to say goodbye after death. But through her conversation to her surviving daughter, Vera, Benny gets to hear the love of a mom to her child. In that way, Mortensen shows that closure can come to us not always in the way we want, but it can still come.


The script is so visual with character moments that are more physical than verbal, it almost reads like an animation script, and one could picture it as an animated short. Though uniquely structured, Mortensen’s Phantom Questions hits at an emotionally impactful universal theme with delightfully weird character moments. Mortensen definitely has a voice and is able to capture a certain quirky tone well.

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