Happy Birthday Ron and Missing Mabel - Doyle Haverfield

Reviewed By Luke Dodge

A showing of two short films, one downer and one upper, luckily in that order. The first, “Happy Birthday Ron,” stars Doyle Haverfield and Christie Courvilleis as a family grappling with sudden loss, enduring pain, and the struggles of moving on (if that’s even possible). The second film, “Missing Mabel,” is a showing of the existing silent film “Mabel at the Wheel” starring Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin.

Doyle’s character lacked the emotional depth needed to sell the secrets he reveals about himself. There is too little difference in his emotional range between making a cake and reminiscing about the deceased. Christie’s performance is the stronger of the two, creating a charming and vulnerable character you feel as if you already know. She deftly mixes anger and sadness to portray realistically the self-doubt and judgment that follows tragedy.

Scenes often linger a few seconds too long and feel awkward, but the slow pacing serves the heavy subject. The film struggles with lighting with scenes sometimes flat and washed out or too bright and overexposed. Where the cinematography shines is the lack of light for one scene in particular; you’ll know it when you see it. The framing creates an intimate feel from the many close-ups. The director’s vision was clear and came through in the final production.

Beneath the unpolished surface of “Happy Birthday Ron” beats the heart of a family that has been through difficult times, particularly relatable to anyone who remains close to their siblings after a childhood less than perfect. The film may start rough and unsure of itself, but ends with a deliberate poignancy and fragile hope.

“Mabel at the Wheel” is the definition of slapstick as you’d expect from a Chaplin film, but the genuine joy is seeing a woman as the hero, especially considering when it was filmed. Quite refreshing.

3 out of 5 Fringe Buttons

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