IRL is the debut short film from LA based filmmaker Grant Singer. After a brief spell assisting on films such as Frost/Nixon (2008) and Where The Wild Things Are (2009), Singer raised his credentials this past year with the rather disturbing visuals for Soft Moon’s ‘Want’, as well as directing music videos for the likes of Gambles, Starred and Sky Ferreira; the latter of whom marks her acting debut as IRL’s central protagonist Angel.
Written by Singer’s friend Patrik Sandberg, an artist/writer from New York City and a founding member of DIS Magazine, IRL documents 24 hours in the life of Angel (Sky Ferreira), a young girl struggling to piece together missing events from the night before after awakening with no recollection. Singer’s film represents a culture of youth in New York awash with alienation and drug fuelled tendencies. Comparisons to Larry Clark’s KIDS (1995) are bound to arise, and much like Harmony Korine’s early scriptwriting Sandberg is very self-aware of the culture being represented. The obsession with social media in today’s society is present, and fleeting lines of dialogue such as “I’m so sick of everyone talking in hashtags”, shortly followed by “I already instagrammed you”, generate a repulsive cringe and wry smile simultaneously. As Singer notes in the film’s accompanying booklet – “[IRL] documents a specific moment in these’s people’s lives, a sort of alternate reality that references itself”.
Angel’s intensely possessive boyfriend Jason (illustrated with great distaste by Chris Wetmore) perhaps sums it up best, “Don’t you understand that this whole generation needs to end?” he tells Angel, “it’s sickening”.
Despite the questioning of today’s internet culture, IRL has more to offer than a mere commentary on the superficial nature of social networking. With a runtime of only 18 minutes, Singer’s debut manages to serve questions on life, death and that of the supernatural; all whilst capturing the modern despondency of youth drug culture impeccably.
Ferreira’s performance is also worthy of plaudits, her pale fragility encapsulates Angel perfectly; snorting cocaine when she wakes up, dropping ecstasy at night. Her disenchantment with the vapidity of life only highlights the dispirited nature of a generation.
Credit for Ferreira’s screen presence should also be attributed to Jason McCormick’s assured camerawork. IRL is only McCormick’s third film credit as Director of Photography, however it’s clear his experience on assisting the likes of Gus Vant Sant & Sofia Coppola have only strengthened his eye for film. IRL’s opening sequence of jump cuts are especially potent, evoking tones of Jonas Akerlund’s Spun (2002); a film McCormick assisted on a decade prior.
The musical score, courtesy of SALEM’s John Holland and Gatekeeper’s Aaron David Ross, also adds to the film’s ominous mood. Bathed in sinister overtones of dark electronic synth sounds or so-called ‘witch house’, Holland and Ross are able to add a deeper sense of unsettlement within New York’s suburban landscape.
Like any form of art, IRL is bound to have its critics. Some will no doubt find its portrayal of a drug riddled, hashtagging, counter-culture gratuitous, whilst others may find truth its its representation of misled youth. Either way, it undoubtedly stands as an impressive independent production, built amongst a core group of artists sharing a collective mindset in creating a world not too distant from their own.
by Robin Pailler