Sock and Buskin

By Mel Poole | Drama
A sad clown and a homeless girl discover a joy that changes both their lives.

Phillipe was recently left by his wife, and the loss has sapped him of his happiness -- a problem especially because he spends his day as a clown in the town square, entertaining crowds. His work begins to suffer as his home life languishes into sadness and grief.

But when he encounters Pia, a homeless street urchin who has enjoyed Phillipe's performances before, he begins to find joy again, changing both of their lives.

Written and directed by Mel Poole, this lovely, charming short drama has a nostalgic, old-fashioned appeal, fashioned with a lush, ornate musical score, a story that pulls at the heartstrings and a sense of whimsy at the core of its creative approach. But it resonates most for its unabashed embrace of emotion, allowing the shadows of life's lows to bring the brightness of its joys to the forefront.

A homage to the age of silent film, there's very little dialogue in the short, but with the main character Phillipe as an expressive clown, spoken lines are rarely needed. Despite the lack of dialogue, the storytelling has plenty of momentum, allowing the astute visuals (from the excellent production design to the elegant camera direction) to compel and pull in viewers.

The film takes time to develop Phillipe's emotional life, starting from the shot of his wife exiting the home, leaving a forlorn Phillipe behind. His home is cloistered and dark, and he is lonely. There are humorous touches that add levity, but Phillipe's emotional place is a difficult one -- one that he can't shake, and begins to seep into his performances.

Those performances are captured with great wit and charm, and actor Leon Cain performs tricks and spectacle with great aplomb. But he succeeds by playing his sorrow and grief with attentive care, allowing viewers to truly empathize with him, even if his audiences in the town square don't. But as Pia, young actor Chloe Guy sees beyond the clown's performance into the pain underneath the makeup and mask. And when she comes to his rescue at a crucial point, the pair make a connection that will change both of their lives.

The title of "Sock and Buskin" refers to the two ancient symbols of comedy and tragedy, as visualized by the masks of joy and pain worn by actors. It's a fitting title to a genuinely heartwarming film that doesn't shy away from life's suffering. Instead, it pokes underneath the pleasant, cheerful surfaces that we present to the world and examines the pain we all experience in one way or another. But instead of stuffing it down and hiding it, the pain of life is recognized in all its vulnerability, making the joy brighter and sweeter for being more hard-won.

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