Knife Point


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Knife Point
"Mirabella-Davis lets his film unwind slowly. Tension hangs heavy as the humidity in the air."

Specificity is vital in a short. It anchors a story when there’s limited room to distinguish it, and often it’s the details we remember. Faces, sometimes. Aspects of place. Observations made by Gerry (Lev Gorn) as he sits at a café counter. We already know Gerry, thanks to a brief introductory scene. We know that he’s carrying knives, that he can’t use his car, that he’s trying to reach his father’s place. We have reason to be suspicious about him. Now we watch him watching teenager Anna (Kate Lyn Sheil) as she plays a shooting arcade game. It’s the details that tell us what’s going on. Her delicate, doe-like face. The focus on her bra strap where it emerges from the edge of her t-shirt.

Opportunity seems to be knocking for this ill-intentioned man when Anna’s little brother approaches him to ask if he has accepted Jesus as his personal saviour. Clearly he has not, but he prevaricates effectively and manages to talk their parents into giving him a ride. It’s a long journey. He sits in the back, squeezed up next to Anna, who listens to music on her headphones and looks out of the window. At a stop along the way, she sings a Christian song but it sounds like seduction, or like an awful premonition. The family proceeds to a roller skating rink where Gerry, alone with her for a moment, asks if he can kiss her.

“This country is at war,” says Anna’s father, explaining that he’s referring to a cultural war, a conflict between God’s people and their enemies. Will Gerry turn to Jesus before it’s too late?

The valley of death as we see it here is soft and green, tree-lined. Slowly winding roads seem to go on forever, but when the time comes, this peaceful journey will end in violence. It might not be quite what you expect. Mirabella-Davis lets his film unwind slowly. Tension hangs heavy as the humidity in the air. The camera lingers on faces straining to communicate yet full of secret things. Anna’s mother copes with bad things by covering her ears and closing her eyes. Anna gazes into the distance. Every little decision seems to make things worse. Even if the ending doesn’t surprise you, it will still disturb and disconcert, but it’s the horrors implied along the way that will continue to haunt you.

Reviewed on: 23 Nov 2021
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An evangelical family offers a traveling knife salesman a ride on their way through upstate New York.

Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis

Writer: Carlo Mirabella-Davis

Starring: Lev Gorn, Kate Lyn Sheil, Davis Hall, Lucy McMichael

Year: 2008

Runtime: 27 minutes

Country: US


Sundance 2009

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