Sarah Klearman’s Backwards is an eccentric comedy with just a dash of romance, the narrative moving forward with the latter as its destination. Centred around a man who has a history with kites (strong enough that it is perhaps the reason why he can only walk backwards), the film goes for the cute/strange spectacle in a character-driven narrative.
Almost two-thirds of the film focuses on the unnamed man (Blake Copeland) in his quotidian life as he walks (backwards) to meet a woman (Jacqueline MacDonald) who has a free kite for him. Save for the modifications he needs to make for his gait, the film takes pains to illustrate the ordinariness of his life. Ordinary morning routine, ordinary dog walk, ordinary to-dos for the day. Yet a combination of home video bookends, the preoccupation with kites, and the peculiar (but effective) rearview mirror-spectacles that he wears creates an air of residual childhood in the man’s life. Indeed, his backward walk and love for kites are the most obvious pointers in this direction.
Light, bright colours make up the colour palette. It is not only morning, it is a morning in the life of a man whose life has little in the way of heaviness. Even the backs of his rearview mirrors have blue skies patterned on them. The background score is predictably lighthearted. These little cues signify his character type but cannot go beyond. With the 10-minute runtime and leisurely pace, the unnamed character does not have the room to establish a richness to himself. The pleasure of watching everyday life passing by, too is compromised. There is not enough time and not enough intricacy of observed detail. However, the addition of old footage considerably improves the film. Straddling the line between unsettling and childhood bliss, it achieves something of the rich detail that the film could use.
The significance of the home video footage unfolds in the last third of the film. A young woman (Emily Windler), wearing the same yellow stripes as the man’s (presumably) mother in the video, is introduced. His own brown jacket is not quite the dark yellow jacket his childhood self wears, but one must account for growth. A meet-cute follows. A spell breaks. An atypical happy ending.
Though its premise is interesting, Backwards is rather rough around the edges. The easygoing man is endearing but fleeting. The latter is a difficult trait to contend with in a film where character takes priority over plot. Still, one imagines revision would put the true bounce in the step of this comedy.
Watch Backwards Short Film
Backwards: A Wholesome Comedy and its Psychoanalytic Base