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Austin Film Festival 2019: “Jane” Short Film Review

This short film, which has a run time of under 15 minutes, is a passion project of sorts for writer/director Kathryn Prescott. She wanted to tell the story of a resident of a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel as well as destigmatize the plight of people dealing with addiction.

“Jane” stars Gayle Rankin as the titular character. She checks the messages left on her landline’s voicemail, and there’s one from her estranged daughter’s new adoptive mother. The woman invited Jane to her daughter’s fourth birthday party and makes it clear that she believes Jane should be a part of the young girl’s life if she wants to. This immediately spurs Jane to action, giving herself a makeover and spending what little she has in a rush of excitement over seeing her daughter.

It’s amazing how much of a story can fit into 15 minutes. Prescott takes us on an adventure with Jane. We see how she struggles, but we also see that all is not lost. Of course Jane’s living situation in the SRO, her separation from her daughter and her heroin addiction are far from ideal, but that doesn’t mean she’s never happy — though it may be fleeting.

There’s a moment in this film in which Jane is buying gifts for her daughter and excitedly tells the cashier that it’s her daughter’s birthday, to which he doesn’t really react. When she realizes she may not be able to afford all of the items she’s picked out, the excitement quickly wanes, and you can see in her expression the deep shame she feels, as women with more money roll their eyes and wait in line behind her. Rankin does a fantastic job expressing how Jane feels with a simple look or expression, a necessity in a film in which her character sparingly interacts with others.

Prescott is a capable director, but her story is the reason this short is so effective. It’s hard to imagine someone walking away from “Jane” without having felt a twinge of sadness (and hope) at the realities Prescott is portraying with this narrative and character. It will be exciting to see what she tackles next.

“Jane” is playing in the Shorts Program 8 – Family Matters program at Austin Film Festival. You can watch “Jane” again on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at 5:20pm – 7:02pm at Galaxy Highland – Screen 2.

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