2017. Written And Directed By Nic Gorman.
By Brian Wallinger.
Human Traces by first time director Nic Gorman is a psychological thriller that made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Using a tightly constructed narrative, Human Traces takes place entirely on a secluded New Zealand island. A stranger (played by new comer Vinnie Bennett) arrives on the island which is populated by a couple, played by Sophie Henderson and Mark Mitchinson previously known for his part in The Hobbit series. Gorman's intimate direction captures isolated chemistry between the central trio through unexpected displays of vulnerability. The story begins with a straight forward presentation before fracturing into a non linear recounting of various scenes from each character's perspective, creating a unique sense of mystery and tension.
Captured beautifully on digital high definition by it's cinematographer, the environment and actions of the characters work hand in hand to ultimately create an independent production that stands in the middle ground somewhere between a Terrence Malick spiritual and a Hitchcockian thriller. Human Traces is a metaphor, both for climate change and humanity's role in the destruction. The decision we make, both instinctively and with forethought have consequences and this is what Gorman seeks to explore.
The film does have it's share of flaws. There are times when the slow burn of the set up becomes confusing and may require multiple viewings in order to understand everything that is transpiring. Also there are times when the characters' actions feel bland, perhaps a symptom of the script. At certain points throughout the film, the camera work feels shaky and the editing appears mismatched. Finally, the film's musical compositions are hit and miss, ranging from delicate piano tones to generically placed ominous notes that confuse rather than stimulate.
At a run time of just under at 130 minutes, Human Traces is a solid film that is undeniably a labor of love. With a minuscule budget and an unknown, but immensely talented cast, this is one of 2017's strongest films. A thoughtful and detailed film, Human Traces proves that sometimes less is more. Poetic and grim, this is a sterling example of bravura storytelling with out flashy explosions and tiresome exposition. Nic Gorman may not be a household name at this point, but his debut shows that he is someone with a lot to offer the film industry.
A thought driven, character focused experience, Human Traces maintains a magnetic atmosphere in which the search for answers, both for humanity and the Earth is not only possible, but desperately needed.