"Two strangers trying to avoid the crowd at a wedding reception end up making an unexpected connection."
Reception is a romantic comedy by Joe Gillette about the first encounter of two strangers destined to fall in love. The film was written, directed and performed by Gillette himself, who is a fan of romantic comedies. It’s a lesson in quality acting as well as a great example of the importance a script has in engaging the audience.
Two main characters, strong internal conflict, an accent on acting, dialogue, comedy, character development and use of offscreen space are the main elements of the short.
Staged in a wedding reception (suburban location), the short employs a minimalist mise-en-scène, making ample use of offscreen space and keeping the camera focused on the main characters without jumping to alternative narrative lines. The lack of parallel editing shows how good the script and performances are, which successfully manage to hook and engage viewers. Authenticity is something that permeates the short, it feels as if some of the situations presented in the film could have been experienced by the director himself.
Joe Gillette’s career in theater and acting shows through in Reception, the emphasis on quality performances and character development through dialogue are not usual in these kinds of films. The naturalistic and organic performances are excellent, with the characters actively listening to each other and exchanging energies. The dynamic feels thoroughly convincing, as does the composition of the characters themselves with their personal histories and faults. The expressiveness of Joe Gillette and Devin Kelley help transmit their feelings and conflicts.
Camera strategy takes into account the fact that there are no parallel narrative lines, providing various camera positions to cut to for adding visual rhythm. Two-shots, medium and close-ups abound. The later allow for capturing the nuances of the performances and providing some intimate moments. Editing goes in hand with the emotional rhythm of the film. Sound design also plays a significant role in building offscreen space and continuity.
The production method of the film is worth noting, it was shot in just one night by a crew of 8 people and most of the takes involved performances of the entire script, making the experience closer to the rehearsal of a play than the usual production of a film.
What makes Reception work so well? Exceptional script and dialogues, abundant humor, remarkable performances, strong internal conflict, effective use of surprises and a romantic comedy with a happy ending that brings a smile.