The Ticket

By Kevork Aslanyan | Drama
A young boy travels across the entire city with only one bus ticket.

A young boy has to travel across the city of Sofia, Bulgaria, to conduct a very important transaction. But the journey will be arduous. He can only take the bus, his destination is on the other side of the city, and it will take him all day. And he only has one ticket to get through the multiple stops it requires.

Through his cleverness, subterfuge and wiles, he makes it through to his destination. But on his return home, he faces his final obstacle: the bus ticket controller, who could discover his ruse.

Writer-director Kevork Aslanyan’s short drama is a marvel of quietly superb craftsmanship and directing, putting us in the eyes and ears of a young boy embarking on an errand of significant personal stakes and facing uncertainty and fear along the way.

Though there is no dialogue in the film, the storytelling nevertheless pulls viewers along, building up first the young boy’s life and circumstances. He lives with only his mother in fairly straitened circumstances and few resources. But he needs to get across town, so he relies on his wits and cleverness — and that one ticket — to make his way across the city.

This commute seems ordinary, it is a herculean effort for a young boy, heightened by his fear of getting caught with a ticket he’s used again and again. The beautiful camerawork and cinematography, along with deft editing and a supple, emotional musical score, elevate this journey into both a quest and even a thriller, with light touches of free-form animation bringing us into his head with vivid flashes of imagination. The ticket machine and the conductor are akin to potential monsters to him, evoking fear with their potential to derail his quest and get him into trouble.

The transaction itself is presented with some ambiguity, with its lack of dialogue and its semi-clandestine nature. The boy’s fear also shrouds the exchange with an element of danger, as does a subtle, excellently restrained but precise performance by young actor Joan Fleming, who cycles between pain, dread and finally relief, when he concludes his journey.

“The Ticket” ends on a heartwarming note, one whose sweetness and light are especially striking in contrast to the taut, suspenseful storytelling preceding it. In the end, the film is a testament to the power of skilled, remarkable craft to compel viewers into a story — but the story is ultimately about loyalty, sacrifice and how much we’re willing to do for the people we love.

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