Common Grounds (2014) – By Josh Samford

There are some areas in cinema that are trickier to tackle than others. Comedy is always the go-to favorite for picking out difficult genres to master, but the small intricacies within any genre can be hard to tackle for inexperienced filmmakers. One that comes to mind is nostalgia. While this emotion is something that relates to all people, displaying it onscreen in a way that resonates can be more than tricky. It’s a balancing act between reality and fancy. I’m sure we have all seen instances where filmmakers have tried, but failed, to engage the audience in a way that brings about memories and emotions in the same way that big name films like Stand by Me have done in the past. However, when a filmmaker does it right, the results can be pretty amazing. Common Grounds is certainly a case where the filmmakers have managed to get everything right.

Common Grounds tells the story of two former friends, Spencer (Leonidas Grimanis) and Danny (Danny Donnelly), who accidentally meet in a coffee shop after years of estrangement. These two share a somber past, as they both shared a very devastating moment together when another one of their friends passed away in front of them. Spencer followed a path that led him to a successful career working for an insurance agency. As a side effect, this has led him to counting down the years left on every person’s life that he meets. Danny, however, went down a different road. Drugs, rock & roll, and the party lifestyle have taken their toll on him. However, when these two meet, they learn a great deal about each other, as well as themselves.

Director Kris Roselli may not be a recognizable name so far, but that may change in years to come. Managing the cast and crew here, Roselli shows restraint and energy with Common Grounds. Filling up the compact running time with pure content, the short stands out as a drama that showcases very little in the way of filler. We jump into the skin of both of these characters right from the start, and by the conclusion, audiences may feel as if they have been hit by a truck. While on paper the story may seem as if it would feature some cliché content (a successful friend meeting a not-so-successful former buddy at a late night diner?), the overall effect of the movie is nothing of the sort. Roselli shows off an understanding for film language. From the way the pace flows together, right down to the right and wrong ways that characters interact with one another.

The character of Spencer is one that I love most within this project. Credit for the character seems to fall on both Roselli for writing the character, and for Leonidas Grimanais for giving voice to the creation. In any other film, it would be guaranteed that Spencer would be so cynical that he would alienate the audience. This happens almost every time we see a introverted character who questions everything around him in voiceover narration. Normally, films have to try hard in order to make these characters relatable, but Spencer instead comes across as sympathetic without having to ever pander. His plight, without ever having to speak it, seems obvious. As the film goes along, the audience understands him more, but at no point does he seem to be the negative soul that one might expect. Danny too stands out as being very human. Despite the tattoos that cover him, and the massive scar that adorns his cheek, once the character of Danny begins to speak, he comes across as a person looking for acceptance. He is wounded, and Donnelly does a wonderful job of bringing this tenderness to the front early on in the film.

Common Grounds is the type of short that you hate to see end. During the film’s running time, we grow to know these characters, we see where they are from, and we understand the resolution, but it hurts that it all has to end. It isn’t a perfect film, as it teeters on the verge of seeming overtly melodramatic every now and then, but the few complaints I could think of for the film do nothing to detract from the overall power that this short has. It’s a movie that is absolutely recommended and I hope that it picks up a wider audience. You can read more about the project via it’s official Facebook page here: