Frank Mosley and Hugo de Sousa’s short films Good Condition and The Event are genre-inflected psychological studies of characters in existential crises, in which the climax is both a jump scare and a giant laugh moment.
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Frank Mosley and Hugo de Sousa’s (Everything in the End) Good Condition is the best film I’ve seen at Fantasia. And it’s only nine minutes long. It’s the second collaboration between the pair after The Event (2022), which they both starred in and co-directed. Both films are genre-inflected dramedies. They’re psychological studies of characters in existential crises in which the climax is both a jump scare and a giant laugh moment.
The Event (2022)
The Event is my personal favourite, largely for the subject matter. Vincent (de Sousa) has just directed his first short film but can’t get his roommate and best friend, Jack (Mosley), to watch it. So Vincent confronts him in the middle of the night. The film thrives on the interplay between the two actors. One of the best scenes plays out in a two-shot. Here, the pair have their biggest fight at whisper volume in low light.
You’ve probably been on both ends of this conversation if you’re in a creative field. You’ve either dreaded watching your friend’s work or begged your friends to watch yours. Setting the film at night amidst shadows and de Sousa’s almost stalker-like behaviour captures the heightened feelings of this exchange. It can feel like life or death, or friendship-breaking, to both parties.
Nevertheless, the pair have upped their craft in Good Condition. The film is a melancholy meditation on isolation, loneliness, and an Ikea table. Here, Mosley takes the sole directing credit. Hugo de Sousas serves as the sole actor in the film and has the sole writing credit. If The Event had a flaw, it was that it was maybe a little bit shaggy. It’s so absorbing that I wouldn’t have complained. But Good Condition never wastes a moment. If The Event was about the onscreen relationship between the friends, Good Condition is the epitome of an actor and director in perfect sync.
One afternoon, Barry (de Sousa) arrives at a house to purchase a used table. A ghostly owner texts him where to find the table, but never leaves his house. It’s a $5 coffee table. But the way de Sousa gazes at it, and Mosley pushes in on it as de Sousa lovingly caresses it, makes it seem akin to the obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Given what follows, you wonder if Barry has merely come for the chance of human contact, which the owner repeatedly denies him through cold, demanding texts.
Disembodied communication through technology has been a mainstay of horror though perhaps never done better than here and in Personal Shopper. But the emptiness of the frame, the abandoned streets, the excessive admiration of the junk table are all the more relatable in the wake of the pandemic when it was not uncommon to not see another soul for weeks.
Actor Hugo de Sousa and director Frank Mosley are in perfect sync in the short film Good Condition
With a simpler plot than the short film The Event, Mosley’s directorial chops really come to fruition in Good Condition. It’s never showy, and it’s all about the blocking. Each cut is purposeful. There’s the way the camera follows Barry at key moments — handheld and shaky in a moment of anxiety and humour, or slow-moving in a push-in for a more emotional confrontation. The sound design is also tremendous, heightening our awareness of the emptiness of the streets and surroundings when we can hear birds and nothing else.
Though The Event also favoured long takes, Good Condition never needs a reaction shot from another actor — just an unseen entity who watches Barry. That means that the camera can be solely focused on de Sousa’s performance. Mosley plays with what moves in and out of the frame and when — for humour and emotion. He also lets a monologue, which Barry desperately wishes to become dialogue, play out in a long take. The tension ratchets up as Barry breaks down, and Mosley offers us no respite.
And yet, the camera has a sly point of view. Sometimes, it puts us in de Sousa’s headspace. Other times, it’s just behind him, observing him: catching up to him from around a bend. Mosley pulls back to let us observe his sadness and confront the fact that we’ve probably felt just as desperate before.
Where to watch Hugo de Sousa and Frank Mosley’s short films The Event (2022) and Good Condition (2023)
The Event is streaming free on Vimeo, where it was a Vimeo Staff Pick.
Good Condition had its world premiere at the Aspen ShortsFest and its international premiere at Fantasia Film Festival. It will soon play New/Next FF, and NOT Film Fest in Italy.