Last Train to Linden (2014) – By Kyle Hytonen

In the short drama Last Train to Linden, a young clean cut man takes an attractive young woman out on what seems to be an awkward first date. They walk the streets and get to know each other a bit more with that uncomfortable “first date” banter, ultimately taking an evening stroll on the shores of the Atlantic. We meet up with the couple in a more intimate setting later on in a coffee shop, the young man and woman both realize they have the common bond of previously being on anti-depressants. This entices the young man to open up a bit more about his past history with that type of medication and the effect it has had on his family and subsequently himself.

The film then zeroes in on this man. We see his ordinary everyday life. His morning consists of taking said medication to start his day and doing his workout routine. He arrives to work in a bakery. He washes up, puts on his apron and prepares the day’s work. It is at this point that Last Train to Linden enters the third act, with a deft twist that plunges the viewer into a case study about mental illness, and the effect it can have on someone’s daily life. It is not apparent what the young man suffers from, but it seems he may be in the early throws of dementia. Was this first date he experienced a dream or was it a memory?

Director Justin Leyba uses water as a motif to transpose those two worlds the young man experiences. Ocean waves come crashing down in his memory to wash the young man back ashore to his regular existence of confusion. The experience of water seems to be the only calm this young man can find in his troubled life. Should he walk closer to those waves to bring back that apparent memory or stay on the shore where it is safe? The climax of the film encapsulates the film’s themes very well and ends on a very prophetic note.

I really enjoyed this short. It spoke a lot about mental illness and isolation in a very small narrative, a fine achievement from writer Dylan Cinti. I found the performances from the two leads Ben Hanisch and Sasha Lazare, as the young man and woman respectively, to be quite good and very naturalistic. There is some very haunting and beautiful “Malick-esque” imagery in the film by director Leyba and cinematographer Grace Pisula. Their hand-held camera seems to be another narrative centerpiece in the film, doubling as a comment on the frantic decrease of the young man’s sanity. I did, however, find that over-used shaky camera a bit too jarring as the film progresses. There are moments of calm in the film that could have been more effective with a much smoother sense of the camera’s eye.

Overall, Last Train to Linden is a very thought provoking and moving drama about how mental illness can affect even the most everyday individual.

The trailer for Last Train to Linden can be viewed here: http://justinleyba.com/last-train-to-linden