'Face to Face Time' Review: Izzy Shill's SXSW short film is a hilarious case study of insecurity and deceit
Spoilers for ‘Face to Face Time’
2020 has witnessed a massive shift in human behavior. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, being locked inside homes has become a reality for millions and millions of people across the globe. A state of lockdown, however necessary it is, does not change the fact that we still need contact with other human beings. Subsequently, video chats have become our new best friend. In that respect, Izzy Shill’s SXSW short film ‘Face to Face Time’ comes as a rude shock.
The six-minute-something film that stars Shill as Claire and Sean Patrick McGowan as Danny, a man she’s been out on two dates with and has a big crush on, is disturbingly funny while being painfully human. It begins with Claire preparing herself. She tidies her dress, makes sure her breasts look good, cleans her bed and then rolls over it a bit to make it just the right amount of messy. She obsesses over every detail in the frame. What frame? The frame of her phone camera as she hits Danny up on FaceTime.
Claire’s prep, as one could foresee, is met with lackluster enthusiasm from the man of her recent dreams. But it only gets worse. Aside from commenting that Claire looks like a “cam girl” because of the way she had placed her phone, Danny spends more time texting than actually paying attention to her. And yet, things get worse.
When Claire tries to initiate some extremely awkward FaceTime sex, Danny pays a bit more attention. But he seems entirely too interested in getting his own rocks off rather than having an intimate time with Claire. He makes inane comments like “nice bra”, “what’s the color of your underwear”, while violently masturbating to what he sees on the screen. Even as Claire tries to make the experience hotter, Danny already looks like he’s about to finish. And then things get even worse.
The laptop or iPad or whatever Danny was talking to Claire on, tilts downward and we catch a glimpse of what’s happening in the southern hemisphere. Danny’s supposed crescendo of passion was an act. He was only pretending to masturbate. Obviously, Claire is hurt. She feels angry and disgusted and sad and decides to leave. In a bid to save himself, Danny tries to flatter, says he likes her, and then starts to explain why he was acting turned on.
As Claire’s interest piques, the chat hangs and the screen freezes.
Shill’s film is positively a nightmare for all couples and would-be couples who find themselves separated by the COVID-19 lockdown. It begs them to question if their passionate escapades on video chats are as real as they seem. If ‘Gone Girl’ managed to make partners mistrust each other, wondering if the other was always planning to ruin their lives, ‘Face to Face Time’ plants a hilarious seed of mistrust among those who partake in sexting, not just now, but really at any time.
Both Shill and McGowan are fantastic in their performances as they emulate the tropes of the needy and the casually disinterested. The story despite its seemingly trivial subject matter makes a delightful case study of human behavior in the space of technology-based communication. Shill’s writing and performance also bring out themes of insecurity, low self-esteem, and measuring one’s self-worth in external loci.
In just about six minutes, this film entertains, tickles, and makes you self-conscious, forcing you to reevaluate your past experiences. And by any standard, that’s a spectacular feat.
'Face to Face Time' is part of Amazon Prime Video’s SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection which is available to be streamed from April 27–May 6.