Dealing with the disaffection of being an artist of any kind today, Julian Sibal’s Jake, the failure is a 9-minute drama about a young struggling writer who goes from one rejection to another. His house is a shrine to his failures, the star of which is the English degree on his wall. As he contemplates the life he has come to inhabit, bleak questions and bleaker answers begin to loom painfully close.
The eponymous Jake (Andi Rexha) loses his day job as a security guard, exacerbating an already hopeless situation. Meaningless small talk is replaced by silence entirely. The character speaks less than five lines on-screen, going from situation to situation mutely, barely reacting in the first place. Instead, the voiceover narrates with the bitter regret of having dreamt, tried, sacrificed and failed. The images of his past haunt him with their unscathed hopes, the chief signifier of which is his ex, Rachel (Emily Arrington). In the present, he is almost always framed alone, surrounded by discontented clutter.
Though the film could have inclined towards resentment, it is instead marked with despair. The voiceover narration repeatedly utters the regret of never having been warned to stay off this path. Self-hatred and alienation trap Jake further within his house. Laughter, tears, streaming, and masturbation—the hallmarks of crisis—take over. The sound design uses a tense track to keep the film from veering into comedy. Instead, the film progresses towards a fraught, precarious climax.
The film depicts failure not as a verdict or even an examination of the nature of creative work in present times, but as the experience itself. The title of the film has the tone of bitter anguish, the voice of the sufferer, rather than an external observer. The washed-out colour palette and wider shots are gradually replaced by darker lighting and tighter frames; Jake’s experience of despair begins bereft of energy and transforms into tremulousness as a deeper alienation threatens to be final.
Watch Jake, the failure Short Film Trailer
Jake, the failure: The Experience of Despair in the Face of Devaluation