Elias is a man with a mysterious disfigurement and a strange power: he helps people meet and fall in love. But he’s forbidden from falling in love himself.
Yet he does loves a woman named Mary — a modern, independent woman who has only known Elias over messages on dating sites and then over the phone. Frustrated with the parameters of their relationship, Elias can’t tell Mary who he really is or why they can’t meet. Stalked by a pair of mysterious men around the city, he decides to let Mary go and give her a chance at real love — in the only way he can.
Writer-director Mark J. Blackman, along with producer Roxanne Holman, has crafted an audacious, noirish urban thriller about forbidden love that mixes ambitious storytelling with moody visual atmospherics to create an immersive, visceral world.
Combining stylistic elements of urban sci-fi/fantasy with an emotional heart of a modern love story, the film frames the narrative through what’s essentially a break-up conversation, weaving in flashbacks to Elias’s origins and background, revealing his fascinating truth as a character and teasing a world that melds elements of the supernatural with science fiction. The revealing, vulnerable voiceover contrasts with the panache of the visuals, which move with the pulse of a London dancefloor, complete with hyper-saturated colors and kinetic, fluid editing.
But the core of the film is the love story, brought to life by deft performances by lead actors Joe Absolom — who British viewers may recognize from “EastEnders” — and Kerry Bennett, who play the doomed lovers with both the hard-boiled edge of a thriller and the intensity of romantic passion.
When the past catches up to the present — and Elias sets Mary free — the film then shifts into full thriller mode, and its ultra-stylish visuals, editing and propulsive musical score collide into an epic, even operatic crescendo.
“Neon” packs a feature’s worth of narrative into a short film, both in the writing and the production, and viewers will be left longing for some more time with the enigmatic, mysterious characters and world that Blackman has constructed. Impeccably crafted and cinematic on a scale that’s rare for a short film, “Neon” is transportive and sweeping in look and feel. It easily tantalizes the eye with confidence and bravura — but it also draws in the heart, making it all the more relatable and memorable.