Written and directed by Phil Newsom, this 2012 film, starring Timothy J. Cox and Kristi McCarson tells the story of Bob, the “Simple Mind” of the title and it delivers a three-punch combo of a film. In essence, Newsom and his story give the viewer an ending worthy of O. Henry on steroids but with a few brilliant and disturbing twists along the way.
We see Bob at the start of the film running, his face misshapen with what seems to be fear. He is running from something as he moves out of camera range the film fades to black and the title. Coming back, Bob is now seated at a bench that is situated by the very path he was running down seconds before.
Something red is shoved under his hip and he clutches black book. Bob’s posture is almost child-like (something that will make sense by the film’s conclusion) and he is obviously excited. He is waiting for a woman (Samantha) who he is describing in detail to another woman via voice over.
In this “memory” as Samantha comes near, he hides his face behind the book. As she passes by, Bob hurriedly closes the book and rushes to follow the woman “of his dreams.” All the while, the offscreen dialogue continues with the other female presence asking him about the female he is pursuing.
As the film progresses, Bob’s reminiscences take different forms; a love story, the passion of a stalker, a voyeur who gets too close. As each layer is peeled back, Bob’s truths change, becoming darker and more disturbing. Eventually an ultimate truth is revealed; one that has all the power of a sucker punch.
Simple Mind is anything but simple. In an extremely short span of time Newsom and his intimate cast weave an intricate spell where one man turns out to be many things. Obviously the writer and director has a background in psychiatry as his knowledge of “serial killers” and their motivations along, his knowledge of, schizophrenia gives us a disturbing look at how dark the mind becomes when faced with an unacceptable truth.
Shot and edited by Paul Nameck (in his first effort as DP) the film looks polished and everything, from the lighting to the focus, is spot on. Nameck does a close up of Cox, as Bob, at one point which distorts just enough to validate what we suspect already, that the main character is odd and off-kilter.
There are a number of “Leone-esque” close-ups where Cox’s visage are the object of focus. Shots like these increase the unease the viewer feels with Bob’s narration of events. At one point, his eyes twitch, uncontrollably it seems, at something off camera. It is, like his other extreme close ups, disturbing. There is a lot going on in this man’s mind as he talks to his therapist (Kristi McCarson).
Cox and McCarson interact with a perfect blend of give and take that slowly evolves into something else. As Bob, Timothy changes, ever so slightly, as the film’s narrative moves along and his motivations shift from what appears to be infatuation and love to something both scary and upsetting.
As the film comes to a close, the significance of those red things that Bob is sitting on at the start becomes painfully clear as does the deep seated and not so thinly veiled hatred in Bob’s mind. This man’s story is anything but simple and this short film is a masterful exploration of how frustration affects the psyche.
Simple Mind is a 5 star short film which does have the same impact as a one-two-three punch combo. Clever and intelligent (watch the film immediately after the ending to see all the clues signposted throughout the movie) with performances from Cox and McCarson that really help sell the story.
Catch this one if you can.