A Mind Beside Itself (P.J. Starks, 2011): USA

Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed on DVD.

A Mind Beside Itself

Sometimes the best approach is the simplest one. In the short film, A Mind Beside Itself, director P.J. Starks does the opposite, attempting to cram more material than can be adequately developed into his eighteen minute running time resulting in a film that had potential, but is marred by its attempt at complexity.

Tristan (Eric Sax) and Maya (Lori Rosas) are beginning their relationship. They move in together and eventually get married, but something is troubling Tristan. He only has a loose hold on reality that loosens even further as he skips his medication. Tristan begins to realize the reality he sees is all in his head, but it’s the one he prefers.

The dialogue is often stagnant and uninteresting while much of the acting feels too much like the director’s friends stopped by for an afternoon to help out by appearing in his film. Eric Sax in the lead role is terribly miscast and has to bear some of the criticism. Whenever he is called upon to look surprised, shocked, happy, or depressed he looks like he is acting, and not very well. To her credit Lori Rosas performs admirably even when her dialogue is not up to par.

Another problem with the film is it does not seem to know what it wants to be. It tries too hard at times to be an art film with cutaways of a symbolic clock as a piano plays a piercing note, and ineffective flashbacks that feel rather goofy due to Eric Sax’s poor acting and that same overly dramatic piano.

At other times the film becomes too literal as we hear lyrics like “I don’t want to be without you in my life” and “to be with you just feels so right” as we see a montage of the couple seemingly on a series of dates that are going perfectly. Some subtlety would have been better.

Though director P.J. Starks effort is apparent it feels rushed and undeveloped, and this may be due, at least in part, to its obvious low budget. The film’s idea is not a bad one and with a more concentrated effort it could be remade effectively.

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