By Jimmy Olsson | Drama
A man tries to compose a song for his girlfriend. Then a neighbor helps him out.

Philip is staying in a new apartment, having had to move to it after his old place that his work provided flooded. But the change in location puts a cramp on his current relationship, which is long distance, and his only companion is his piano keyboard.

When that relationship implodes, his only consolation is the music that his unseen neighbor plays on his own piano. And through the invisible connection of the music -- and the act of playing along -- he finds a release for his emotions.

Written and directed by Jimmy Olsson, this reflective short drama captures the unique connections we make through music, even when people can't share the same physical presence. Yet through the power of melody, we can still find a powerfully emotional way to bond, offer companionship and feel less alone in the world.

The film begins in an ordinary, casual way, as Philip settles into a new apartment. The corporate perfunctorily furnished in a cold, impersonal way, and Philip is very much alone, though he's constantly on the phone with his girlfriend. And it's over the phone when she breaks up with Philip, compounding his isolation in a strange new home.

The film is quite minimalist in many ways, from the set-up of a single actor in a single location for much of the location to the unadorned, melancholic lighting and images. Outside of the initial conversation with the landlord, most of the dialogue is via phone. This stripped-down approach underscores the anonymity and sparseness of ----'s life and the isolation of his circumstances.

But the film is rich in sound, particularly from the music coming from Philip's next-door neighbor and Philip's own playing. Music is the film's secret weapon, a conduit through which two people who can't see each other offer solace, comfort and companionship, and it's used beautifully here, infusing the film with emotion and beauty. And when Philip hits his lowest point, he finds comfort in the music -- and understanding -- of his fellow neighbor.

"Notes" was inspired by a video that went viral during the early part of the pandemic, when a man played a piano duet with his neighbor in the next apartment over. Like that video, this story finds poignancy in the seemingly innate need for people to communicate and be connected -- and the innate power of music to express the depth and texture of deep emotion. The story has an emotional richness, so much that it's startling to realize that most of the film is about a man alone in an apartment. But its simplicity becomes one of its great assets, bringing to the fore the essentials of life, the basic goodness that can exist between strangers and music's primitive power to express the depths of deep emotion.

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