Stormchaser (2020) Review
With a name like Stormchaser, you’d be forgiven for thinking this short film would revolve around some high stakes end-of-the-world melodrama as seen in the likes of The Day After Tomorrow and Greenland.
Yet instead, this is a surprisingly deep and introspective tale of empowerment and self-belief, underpinned by important socio-economic messages that feel increasingly relevant in the modern day.
Stormchaser follows Bonnie Blue (Mary Birdsong), an out-of-luck door-to-door salesperson who longs for simpler - if slightly more dangerous - times as a child chasing tornadoes with her father. Instead, she is stuck in a seemingly dead-end job working with unbearably arrogant men with massively out-of-date attitudes.
The theme of toxic masculinity and its detrimental impacts both in the workplace and wider society runs through the entirety of the movie. And, while a little on-the-nose in places, the script by writer-director Gretl Claggett tackles the issue with impressive poise, demonstrating the personal effect that harmful male behaviour can have on those around them.
These messages are excellently sold by Birdsong, who puts in a fantastic performance throughout. Over the course of just 28 minutes there is a real growth to the character of Blue, who becomes increasingly defiant as time passes, and Birdsong nails each stage of her development with ease.
Claggett also delivers an extensive critique on capitalism and an often unfair class system within this short. In Stephen Plunkett’s Flip Smyth, Claggett creates a personification of greed and human apathy that manages to get under the skin of the audience. While some of Flip’s dialogue borders on theatrical, Plunkett’s arrogant and unrelenting display helps to make the character a formidable antagonist who is easy to hate - but very enjoyable to watch.
Through some professional camerawork and delightful cinematography, Claggett and her team make the most of the unpredictability of its rural US setting, grounding the story in stunning visuals. One scene in particular, as Bonnie chases a storm in a dramatic moment of resilience late on, lives long in the memory.
With a slightly more polished script, Stormchaser could have become a perfect short film - but it gets astoundingly close to the mark nonetheless. Fronted by the phenomenal Birdsong and tackling a number of important issues, this film is undoubtedly more contemplative than the title may suggest. It’s no surprise that the awards have flooded in for this one.