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The One Note Man (2023)

The One Note Man (Jason Watkins) follows a musical man, one who does the same thing every single day. From the location of his toothbrush, to the sound he makes when he eats chocolate–everything, from one day to the next, is the same. He likes this. However, one day things change–and the daily diversity that he had once avoided seems to have become a necessity. Now trying to navigate his new world, that musical man will find that there’s more to life than meets the eye.

Briefly narrated by the beloved Ian McKellen, The One Note Man pulls viewers in with his booming voice. We can feel the passion in the words that he speaks, and while his presence in the film is brief, he owns the only speaking parts of the film–making that smaller role more powerful. This is the best way to start the film, the best way to engage viewers.

The sound is perfect. Every second of the film is perfect in this regard, as it allows us to fully understand the tone of the film and the film’s protagonist. With the exception of Mckellen’s narration, there is no dialogue, not a single word uttered throughout the course of the film–and the score and the other uses of sound effectively work as the dialogue, as a way to communicate between characters and with viewers. The One Note Man uses sound to drive the film forward, to tell a story, to communicate, and to do just about everything in between. The sound design present in The One Note Man is one of the most beautiful things that I’ve ever heard in film, and it transported me to a place of delight that kept hold of me until the film’s closing seconds.

Writer-Director George Siougas creates a film that is subtly funny, that uses dry and not-so-obvious humor that transcends the entirety of the film. Much like the sound present in The One Note Man, the comedy works to keep viewers present in the film and in the story. I constantly waited for the next bit of humor, and for the first half of the film it always came in the same place, literally on repeat. Once the film transitions into its second and third acts the comedy becomes more sporadic, constantly rearing its head and forcing viewers to laugh. In a weird way the comedy keeps viewers on edge, because we know it’s coming, but once the film shifts we aren’t entirely sure where it will come from. Constantly looking forward to the next instance of comedy, I was dialed in to The One Note Man, anticipating what was coming next, enjoying it every step of the way.

Again, The One Note Man doesn’t provide any of its characters with speaking lines, and they are tasked with using their faces and their bodies to deliver just about everything. Their silence, however, never hinders their ability to communicate or to tell a story. The actors are brilliant, and they possess a chemistry that I struggle to understand. Sure, conversations take place off screen throughout production, but to be able to bring that relationship and those conversations to life on screen through everything but dialogue is most certainly a challenge. Watkins and his counterparts, the violinist (Louisa Clein) and the conductor (Crystal Yu), feed off of one another, making the others better at every turn.

The One Note Man is a simple story, just how many of us like it–but it’s brilliantly layered, appealing to the senses in more ways than one. From the opening narration by the powerful McKellen, to the brilliant acting of Watkins and the others, to the absolutely perfect use of sound to deliver comedy, drama, and more, The One Note Man is one of the best short films I’ve seen this year. I was astounded by all that Siougas brought to life; this film is a masterpiece.

Written & Directed by George Siougas.

Starring Jason Watkins, Louisa Clein, Crystal Yu, Paul Barber, Ian McKellen, etc.




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