Martha (2019)

Director Christopher Haydon’s short film is both a compelling drama, and a rather captivating mystery. In its own way it’s a horror movie, but more a horror movie about loneliness, isolation, and repetition. The entirety of “Martha” is meant to be cryptic, as Haydon begins the film on a single scene of a woman sitting in a hall with a single red balloon.

“Martha” then begins with Martha, a young teenager who awakens to an empty house. Going about her morning routine, she is soon horrified to realize that she’s the only person on the entire planet. What begins as a small experiment in freedom turns in to a maddening series of rituals and repetition in an effort to keep her hopes high. But one day she meets Angie, another person in this empty world.

“Martha” is a marvelous short film, one that works well within the confines of its short format. Anything longer or shorter, and the film risks being dull, as well as giving away what director Haydon intends to convey. In either case, “Martha” paints a wonderful picture of a girl alone in her environment with no real method of finding help, or anyone that can help make sense of what’s unfolding. What she thinks will be a cure to her isolation gets even more complicated once Angie is introduced, and she sets the stage for what is a crushing climax.

While I pretty much caught on to what Haydon and writer Iona Firouzabadi were leading us in to, that doesn’t hinder the overall experience. The excellent direction and vivid imagining of this world by writer Firouzabadi, matched with the great dual performances by Shannon Tarbert and Leah Harvey make “Martha” absolutely riveting. I hope we can see more from director Haydon down the road.