Director: Emmanuel Shirinian
Writer: Emmanuel Shirinian
Cast: Michael D. Cohen, Emma Fleury, Anna Hopkins, Aaron Abrams
Runtime: 80 min
We all have things to deal with in life; relationships, personal issues, financial stuff, etc. It’s difficult to put oneself in another’s shoes unless we have some experience to relate, to be able to say “yes, I get it”. Out comes It Was You Charlie, a film by Emmanuel Shirinian that takes life’s many moments, sprinkles some drama, and presents a truly heart-warming film experience. Here is my love letter to this brilliant indie production.
It Was You Charlie follows Abner (Michael D. Cohen), a lonely graveyard shift doorman, who was once an accomplished sculptor and art teacher. Now a mere shadow of what he once was, he lives a quiet life, consumed by two unresolved conflicts: a fighter with his brother over the woman he loved, and a tragic accident that took place a year before. When he bumps into a free-spirited taxi driver named Zoe (Emma Fleury), his life begins to turn, with Abner finally wanting to face the conflicts that have haunted him for so long.
Emmanuel Shirinian has crafted a film with multiple themes and topics. This film isn’t just about Abner and the conflicts of his life, but examining the various things in life that define any individual: our actions, our behaviour, the people around us, etc. Using one man, Shirinian paints a picture of the real world, putting down how the simplest of things can be catalysts to a chain of events, whether they are physical events or psychological ones. The balanced cinematography, well-selected music, and simple direction allow us to dig into the film, truly experience every moment. One element that is used by Shirinian beautifully in this film is the use of flashbacks. They are not your typical “oh 5 years ago” sorta moments. Flashbacks are used to put together fragments, helping put together the fragmented man that Abner is. That is one element the audience will truly appreciate.
I am tempted to create a new article for the performances in this film, because they are quite beautiful. Michael D. Cohen doesn’t just present to us Abner, he lives him. There isn’t a point in the film where you are going “that doesn’t feel right”. Cohen is Abner, and that is the end of it. His edgy, sophisticated performance creates this man that you just want to learn more about. The cast that surround him are equivalently brilliant and well-selected for their roles. Emma Fleury celebrates her feature film debut with her sweet and mysterious Zoe, the cabbie that brings a bit of colour to Abner’s black and white life. Like her character, her performance is simple and strong, really making her character a pivot point in Abner’s life. Aaron Abrams really captures the brotherly relationship between Abner and his character Tom. Two very different individuals, but their performances compliment one another, creating connection points you would see a sibling relationship. Anna Hopkins was one cast member who needed more of the spotlight. She portrays Madeleine, a ridiculously important character in the story, and she does it with flare and confidence. You fall in love with her character immediately, a reaction you will find interesting when you realize the conversation in her opening scenes.
It Was You Charlie is very much about the performances. There is no crazy cinematography or fancy anything to distract away from those performances. I will mention, however, that audiences should pay attention to the film and its many happenings. At the conclusion of this 80 minute film, you will realize a great many things, and that realization is quite beautiful. Go and experience this wonderful Canadian production. It is totally worth it.
It Was You Charlie plays at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto starting August 15th – To buy tickets, please visit the TIFF website HERE
Cover Photo: Michael D. Cohen as Abner | Photo Credit: Jag Gundu