Femme Filmmakers Festival 7 Review: Polished

Year: 2022

Runtime: 6 minutes

Director/Writer: Colleen Dodge

Actors: Jane Stiles

By Dominic Corr

Six minutes. That’s all it takes for Colleen Dodge’s “Polished” to communicate a vulnerable glimpse in decisions, everyday decisions, but decisions only half of the world is making. And within these six minutes, nothing is taken at second value; it speaks true and forthright with a stellar cinema verité framework.

Aiming to provide an insight into what pushes women into making these decisions across New York, and indeed the world, “Polished” comprises a young woman’s day condensed into a transient film. But within these minutes, entire conclusions occur which change the course of a life are taken – and no one else would even know.

And it all starts with the stripping of armour: nail varnish. For many, the colour and style of their nails is a shield of sorts, a stamp of themselves and an outer demonstration – so it’s no wonder the intensity of red is torn, stripped, and chipped away in an uncomfortably visceral shot, close and intense, Max Philips‘ soundscape making no attempts to conceal the discomforting audio. Additionally, colourist Vlad Kucherov’s manipulation of the film further alters viewers perception, increasing the mildly out-of-synch feeling we have until the full story is revealed.

Jane, making her way to an appointment, appears to be engaging in an ordinary day. Checking which door of the subway seems safest, mask on in the crowded places, but Jane Stiles reserved performance still suggests something else – something which is exploding in the character’s mind; the audience just doesn’t know it yet.

She spots a young mother and her child, seemingly unrelated, just a pleasant afterthought. But everything in Dodge’s film has purpose, and as Jane arrives to her appointment – the subway journeys, the lingering moments and character choices all slot into place as she is asked ‘Do you have someone to pick you up after this?’. Stile’s performance elevates as her legs are placed in stirrups, a sympathetic nurse offering a hand.

“Polished” is a short to re-watch; the initial viewing is a tightly made short, the second is a superb demonstration of world-building and lacing insight through a seemingly mundane narrative. Over the credits, the now stripped nails begin to receive a new coat, this time a renewing white.

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