Directed by Kelly Campbell, An Encounter follows the story of two young boys who ditch school for the day and wander through Dublin, enjoying the freedom that being young, alone and free provides them. Not long into their day off a stranger approaches the two asking if they’ve seen his dog and this encounter leaves one of their lives changed forever.
The twenty minute short premiered at the San Diego International Film Festival in May 2022 and is an excellent short film. Adapted loosely from one of James Joyce’s shorts, An Encounter very quickly turns into a harrowing watch. The film displays some beautiful cinematography of Dublin’s landscapes and it’s stunning to watch.
Watching the two boys chat and play about as they enjoy their freedom having ditched school for the day feels natural and a perfect setting for a short film like this. The boys decide to sit and chat in a marshland for a bit when all of a sudden, a strange, older man appears. The man says he’s looking for his dog which causes one of the boys to go off in search of his missing dog leaving the other boy all alone with him.
Campbell gets the tone of the film spot sending chills shivering down your spine. Watching the stranger talk to the young boy has you on edge but that’s all that happens. It’s a simply constructed film but it knows what it’s doing, and it does so delicately. Campbell and writer Mark O’Halloran throw you so perfectly into the world of the film and the world of these two boys playing hooky that you’re entranced by the film its entire twenty minute runtime.
It’s chilling in its simplicity and the way in which the drama unfolds on screen. Perhaps some of it could have been slightly more nuanced and it didn’t need to be quite as explicit in everything that happened towards the end of the film. However, the two young leads Moses Murphy and Robert Carney give great performances, and indeed so does Gary Lydon who plays ‘The Man’.
An Encounter is a gripping watch and is absolutely stunning to watch. With good performances, and excellent cinematography, you can forgive some of the lack of subtlety in the film’s final few minutes. I won’t go into any more detail as to not give anything away about the film’s conclusion but it’s tenderly and delicately built, and is an unnerving watch for certain.
DIRECTOR: Kelly Campbell
STARS: Moses Murphy, Robert Carney, Gary Lydon
RUNTIME: 20 minutes