Dave Thorpe’s short film “Soulmates” is a product of Ireland’s Clones Film Festival 48 Hour Challenge. Clocking in at just over 5 minutes, it is a tight, funny, and surprising gem. A perfect subject for a short film and if it was a few shades darker, it wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone.
Sandra (Julie McKiernan) is desperately trying to make a connection with someone. She scours online sites, goes out on dates, and frequents bars. But everywhere she goes, she is followed by the teenage specter of her first love Karl (Jake Kelly). She is hounded by his unwanted intrusion and voice that is only in her head. When she’s curled up with a date on the couch watching a movie, Karl is there loudly eating popcorn and commenting on the plot. It is made clear that he is invisible to everyone else but her. By his age and gentle demeanor, it is implied that he ay have died young. He reminds her that she will never be able to move on as long as she keeps comparing every man she meets to the idealized memory of him.
It would be easy to dismiss “Soulmates” as a cute 48 hour film short. A simple but intriguing premise with one foot in comedy and the other in poignancy. But at its finish, the film sideswipes the audience with the kind of twist that will make you rewatch it to see what you missed.
As with most 48 hour films, technical finesse is sacrificed for the sake of ingenuity. McKiernan and Kelly are excellent as the leads and Kelly especially has an easygoing appeal which recalls the late Anton Yelchin. As a short film, “Soulmates” would work as a very solid effort and a calling card for clever writing by Kevin Bennett and direction by Thorpe. But as a 48 hour film, it is one of the more impressive I’ve seen and I look forward to seeing what all the participants do next.