Johnny Be Gone (2010) – By James Dubbeldam

Trevor Juenger’s Johnny Be Gone is a short film that tells the complex tale of Johnny (Erik A. Williams)- a tormented young man. We see Johnny struggle with is life, his sexuality, his identity and society in general. With obvious physiological problems and wanting to live his life as a woman, only Johnny’s roommate Logan (Joe Hammerstone) knows who he really is. They accept one another and their differences, expressing themselves to each other and outwardly as they choose.

Johnny not only struggles within, but is tormented by thugs who beat him for being different.

While applying for a job at a local sandwich shop, Johnny meets a young woman who might be someone who is wiling to see Johnny for who he really is. The owner of the shop torments Johnny, for no apparent reason other then showing up wearing makeup.  Johnny’s conversations with his talking rabbit help us dive further into Johnny’s problems, which have him considering desperate measures to solve his “problems”.  When light finally appears at the end of the tunnel, things turn even worse for Johnny, who spirals out of control and leave us wondering- is there a chance for Johnny?

From the creepy/disturbing beginning, you’re really not sure what to expect from this 44 minute short film. It takes a little while to get started, but once you’re in the story, it holds together like a consistent piece.

The CUs (close ups) early on and throughout the film help set the mood and pace, which is reflective of the awkward, outcast main character.

Although confusing at times, it’s a story dealing with exactly that. Confusion. Dealing with mature subjects throughout- viewers be warned if you have an issue with nudity, gay themes and drugs. But if not, they work well in this deep and dark look at a tormented soul.

The conversations with the rabbit are completely necessary- Johnny doesn’t say much otherwise- but he’s actions and how he presents himself do. So when he converses/argues with his rabbit, you get a deeper look “into” this young man, and that’s where it faulted for me – I wanted to know about the character. That being said – it was good enough that I cared enough to want to know more. Without too much happening in the story, you really need to SHOW the viewer who these characters are. And that’s quite a challenge. Not that it was done wrong, but there’s always room for improvement.

I admire this film and Juenger didn’t step away from the challenge. He took a lot of risks with this film; he created a style and a feel almost right away that was creative, artistic and different. I haven’t seen anything like it before.

The music throughout the film was good- it worked quite well. It helped me to “feel” the pain of the main character, and opened me up to a new world which I’m not used to.

The film showcases hatred, misunderstanding and intolerance. We can all learn something from Johnny, if we would just try and understand him.

Johnny Be Gone did struggle with some problems. Again, I wonder why Juenger didn’t just add 16 minutes to the story to make it a feature. As a short it’s too long, as a feature it’s too short. I would like to see Johnny’s character developed and it become a feature-length film. To really appreciate this film, it needs to dive further into Johnny and who he is. Why he is the way he is so important for us to understand and connect with him and the film. Sometimes the film takes things a little too far, as a filmmaker you always have to remember that the viewer isn’t stupid. We pick up on most well-done subtleties.

Although fairly important to the story, Johnny’s roommate Logan takes the focus away from Johnny, who in my opinion is the “star” of the film and who I wanted to spend my time with. I didn’t feel like his roommate helped further many of the touched on themes.

Overall, the acting was good. Everyone played their part well and were “believable”. Even when they didn’t say anything on screen. The sandwich store owner (Kevin Stroup) seemed a little over the top- especially considering the other more subtle characters. I only wish that the characters were “deeper” in the script, then the efforts of all involved would shine brighter.

I look forward to Trevor Juenger’s next project. As a risk-taking artist and with a style his own, I would look out soon for his big “break”!