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Film Review: Pigeon

Writer/Director Paul Sliwinski cultivates a portrait of a military contractor Earl’s dark past in Pigeon, the psychological thriller short film. When Earl (Earl Fletcher) seeks out new work, his job prospects become complicated when his son Larry (Patrick Boyle) needs fifteen thousand grand. Earl reaches out to old criminal contacts while he tries to pass his upcoming military job’s pre-screening psych evaluation. The need to pass the evaluation and the needs of his sons appear to have Earl pigeon-holed much like the pet pigeon he keeps safe in a cage.

Piegon - Featured Scene

Earl’s performance as the military contractor has a naturalistic, patient quality. His tiredness and need to get back to work feels relatable. He doesn’t seem like the type to lose his cool or be calculating, unlike his sons Larry and Dan (Brandon Wahlberg) who appear to exemplify the Earl’s Jungian shadow selves. Larry has a cold cynicism while Dan has hotheadedness. Boyle and Wahlberg do a wonderful job bringing these opposing qualities to the screen. Combine all three—Earl, Larry, and Dan’s—personalities and there is the makings of a regular Tony Soprano.

Similarly, the mobsters Dillion (Marc Siciliani), Andrew (Andrew S Cortez), and head honcho Gene (Erich Rausch) bring a nice sardonic but menacing presence. They offer Earl a chance to make money even though Gene still owes Earl money from his last shady gig. Earl refuses the new gig, and when he does, his pigeon is taken from him.

The script is rich with subtext and symbolism. Pigeons are usually considered good omens of faith and peace. When Earl’s pigeon is taken from him, so is his good nature, presumably never to be the same again. The pigeon could die from the stress of loud noises just like war veterans may be affected by PTSD. Though there are some questions left answered at the end—for example, what exactly was this botched crime job that motivated Earl to go back to the military? Why does Larry need the money? What exactly was the thing about Earl visiting an old man in the nursing home? Even without these questions answered, there is enough information to provide discussion, and the mystery of what exactly Earl plans to do to get fifteen thousand hangs in the balance and keeps things interesting.

The hypnotic score by Patrick Reynolds serves as a driving force of unease in Pigeon. Even through the most mundane moments in the film, it is difficult not to feel as if it’s only a matter of time before Earl cracks.

Sliwinski was clever to use the slow pacing and several shots of Earl at a distance reading, cuddling his pigeon or otherwise acting peaceful. In the art direction, costumes, and coloring of the film there is a repeated use of grayscale, possibly to exemplify what Earl feels on the inside—numbed. Director of Photography Eitan Miller really shines at the end when that lighting is then changed to a murderous red. It all adds up to this short being a very thoughtful, intentional, well-plotted film full of anxiety about the future.

Writer-director Paul Sliwinski


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