By Nadia Dalimonte
Emidio Lopes in Pressure Play (2020)
Writer, producer and director Eric Bizzarri brings a strong subject matter onto the screen with the short film Pressure Play. The story follows Fraser (Emidio Lopes), an introverted teenager playing on his school basketball team. He and his teammates are subject to a toxic sports culture perpetuated by their abusive Coach Riggs (Andrew Bee). Emidio’s concerned mother Julia (Rachel Peters) notices changes in her son’s behaviour and demands the school take action.
Pressure Play is solid as an exploration of how young men are pressured to act a certain way, and how such expectations put a barrier on safe spaces for communication. The film works best when examining how this all plays out in the school environment versus at home from the protagonist's perspective. There is a clear sense that something is going on behind closed doors, and the film does a good job of creating that atmosphere. The character work is not quite as consistent. There is a strong sense of subtext with the coach’s introduction and how it affects the team. As soon as he walks into the auditorium during a practice one day, the young men go quiet and continue playing. That moment alone says a lot about who the coach is. His presence encourages silence, further bringing to light the lack of avenues people have to discuss his behavior openly and make him accountable. It’s a clear and effective establishment of character, so the added scenes of him using some despicable language feel unnecessary in the film.
The story focuses intently on Fraser’s point of view as a young man experiencing inner conflict, as he tends to keep his emotions withdrawn. While his exploration of the character would be more intriguing to watch in feature length, Emidio Lopes has such promising talent and gives a great performance as Fraser. Another resonating feature about the film is the use of sound. There’s a great dialogue-driven scene that incorporates practical sound effects (i.e. a phone ringing) to create score. Other moments have an interesting manipulation of sound and music that puts you further into Fraser’s introverted mind. While there is some untapped potential in Pressure Play, the director has a resonating voice and his film is certainly a promising one that sparks absolutely necessary discussion.