A photographer who specializes in creating “stock photos” — those well-made but blandly generic images used by businesses to illustrate content in some way — is at a difficult point in his career. His boss doesn’t think his picture of businessmen eating peaches doesn’t really “drip with sex.” And he’s quickly reaching his breaking point with his “dead end” job. Even his therapist doesn’t quite seem to like or respect him.
But then a model named Sydney walks through the door for a photo shoot of people flossing. The photographer suddenly regains inspiration and develops a romantic interest in Sydney. But so does his boss.
Writer-director Jeff Loveness’s comedy short is a satire on the romantic comedy, written with hilarious wit and performed with sheer brio.
One of its pleasures is how it takes an element of modern life that we’ve taken for granted — photos that take up space on web pages, brochures and the like — and foregrounds its absurdity by giving us a peek of the behind-the-scenes.
The visuals — helmed by cinematographer and editor Kyle Blair-Henderson — bring this milieu to life in a heightened, slightly surreal way, deftly mixing slow motion, close ups and almost clinically clear cinematography. It’s almost as if a stock photo itself had come to life, and was soon overtaken by the real messiness and weirdness of human existence.
The film clearly has an absurdist take on its love story and world — and the film’s dialogue can seem over the top at moments — but its main performances are grounded and realistic, based in a real sense of despair. Our photography’s malaise is understated but real — and so is his connection with Sydney — which makes it relatable to anyone who has ever felt like giving up on the life they’ve somehow found themselves in.
“Stock” is a rare pleasure, a comedy that clearly has fun with its jokes, but also contains a core of real human struggle. Underneath the most innocuous, brightly-lit surface, there is always a story of vulnerability, difficulty and how hard it is to hold onto meaning and contentment in a world that glosses over struggle. Light on its feet in execution, and with a funny little zing of an ending, “Stock” posits how people can find inspiration in the oddest of places — and guarantees you’ll never look at a stock photo of businessmen in suits in the same way again.