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The Independent Critic

Jennifer Estlin, Amaya Lorick, Crystal Staley, Grace Etzkorn, Kara Ryan, Kasey Busiel, Kasia Wilson, Kelsey Ashby-Middleton, Kristyn Zoe Wilkerson, Kyrie Courter, Margaret O'Connell, Marissa Castillo, Morgan S. Reesh, Reilly Golden, Rubey Mendoza, Sydney L. Cusic,
Talie Leeb, Emma Seslowsky, and Ultra-Violet Archer
Jennifer Reeder
27 Mins.

 Hoosier Jennifer Reeder's "A Million Miles Away" is an Intelligent Short Film 

From its opening moments, Jennifer Reeder's A Million Miles Away is a mesmerizing film that challenges both form and expectation. Centering around a substitute choir instructor (Jennifer Estlin) seemingly on the edge of a nervous breakdown whose unraveling is enveloped by this choir, a pack of girls simultaneously bringing to life a familiar 80's heavy metal anthem turned lamentation that springs everyone involved forward into what feels like a supernatural coming-of-age that changes everyone.

A Million Miles Away is an intelligent, insightful and deeply felt short film grounded within Estlin's vulnerable to the point of aching performance as Crystal Chambers, a woman whose fractures seem readily apparent even when she stands before her choir leading them into an experience that feels authentic with just the right amount of hints of fantasy.

While the film benefits greatly from Estlin's beautifl performance, it would be devoid of any meaning at all without a sublime ensemble cast of girls whose moments, and nearly everyone in the film has them, that bring each girl to the forefront in ways that are mysterious, revealing and yet strangely believable. In many ways, the roles are reversed in this "relationship" of sorts as the girls seem to become Crystal's guide toward a certain type of enlightenment yet the girls themselves also seem to be deeply changed by film's end.

Reeder's direction is balanced, intimate and comfortable, while D.P. Christopher Rejano's lensing builds the film's tension in just the right spots yet never wavers from the story's vulnerability. The use of the 80's heavy metal anthem, a Judas Priest tune, is a brilliant stroke and an earlier scene incorporates yet another familiar anthem of sorts. The film, a festival favorite, has picked up prizes at the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival and VIS Vienna Independent Shorts among others and was nominated for the short film grand jury prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

The best experimental short films make you forget that they are, in fact, experimental in presentation or subject. This is what A Million Miles Away does as it literally immerses the viewer in its atmosphere that is, or so it seems, supernatural and all enveloping.

For more information on the film, visit its official website linked to in the credits.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic