By Brendan Cleaves | Comedy
A guy comes home after six months in Mongolia to discover his best friend has replaced him with a ventriloquist doll.

Stephen has spent the last six months in Mongolia. When he returns to his native England, he’s picked up at the airport by his best friend Roy.

But Roy has a passenger of his own in the front seat: his new friend Roger, who is a ventriloquist’s dummy. Stephen doesn’t know quite what to make of it at first… but watching him realize he’s been replaced as a best friend by a dummy is both absurd and deeply funny.

Writer-director Brendan Cleaves has fashioned a charming, funny comedy short that offers a compact, briskly paced take on the tensions that arise among friends, and the line between humor and madness.

Blending together sharp, clever performances — by Seann Walsh and John Bradley from “Game of Thrones” — and a witty, amusing script, the film is essentially a self-contained scene, but the arc from beginning to end is both elegantly simple and fully realized, with each beat and progression well-timed and landing with a punch.

The film is also impeccably edited, with a rhythm and bounce that keeps audiences engaged all the way, but takes judicious pauses to really take in Stephen’s slow realization that he has indeed been supplanted by a dummy. We see his disbelief, his relief that it’s a joke, and then his dawning insight that Roy’s pretty much lost it, and his character anchors us in a hilarious, unbelievable dilemma.

Cleaves’s deft, jazz-like writing is a highlight of the short, and the feature film version of “Roger” was selected as one of the top comedy scripts on the famed insider Hollywood Black List. The end of the short may leave viewers with more questions– and wanting to spend more time with the characters — but the ride was a well-crafted and highly memorable one.

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