Broken Mile in seamless shot, but still broken

D+ Thriller
Written and directed by Justin McConnell

Note: I reviewed this film on the assumption that it would get a Bay Area theatrical release. Now, I’m not so sure. But I do know that it becomes available in home formats (VOD/DVD, etc.) today.

Few one-shot feature films get made, and for good reason. They’re extraordinarily difficult to make. They’re also usually not worth making.

That’s very much the case for Justin McConnell’s Broken Mile. Technically, it’s amazing. McConnell’s camera (literally; he’s the cinematographer as well as the writer and director) glides smoothly as it follows the three main characters through the streets of Toronto on a rainy night. The logistics of moving from one location to another while the camera is running for 80 minutes must have been daunting.

Shooting a film in a single shot removes editing from the filmmaking equation, and that means removing much of cinema’s power. And yet, it’s possible to make a good movie that way. The thriller Victoria worked extremely well. But Victoria had a well-defined, interesting protagonist, and a strong story. Running almost an hour longer than Broken Mile, it seldom dragged. Mile drags for much of its short runtime. (McConnell also gave himself a Film Editing credit. For what?)

Broken Mile is also a thriller. Shaun (Francesco Filice) wakes up in a bathtub and his own vomit. He finds a young woman on the couch, dead from a pill overdose. Instead of calling the cops, he calls his ex-girlfriend. He’s terrified that Kenny, the dead girl’s lover and Shaun’s best friend (Patrick McFadden), will want to kill him.

That ex-girlfriend is Amy (Caleigh Le Grand). Of the three main characters, she’s the only one who appears to have a working brain – and even she does things that are pretty stupid. Shaun and Kenny, on the other hand, are way beyond logical thought. Kenny waves this big pistol while demanding that he just wants to talk. Shaun runs from him and for the most part drags Amy along. They hide in deserted places. It never occurs to them that they’re safer in a crowd.

There’s a lot of transportation in Broken Mile, mostly in the first half, and that’s where the one-shot technique really hurts the film. Shaun takes an Uber to Amy’s apartment. Shaun walks upstairs. Shaun walks downstairs. Then Kenny goes up and down stairs. Amy goes downstairs, gets into her car, and drives across town. Without editing, it’s harder to get rid of the boring bits.

Sean Motley’s overbearing music score, filled with every thriller music cliché, doesn’t help.

McConnell probably should have hired someone else to do the camerawork. He had enough on his plate with the actors having to properly emote while hitting their marks.

I want to praise McConnell for doing something daring and difficult. But daring and difficult doesn’t cut if the result isn’t worth watching.