I can't be sure how many times I've watched a movie and thought, “This is too long.” Probably a lot. Rarely do I finish a movie and say, “That was too short.” But I'll say this about The Cobblestone Corridor, it's too short. Yes, it is a short film—twenty-five minutes—but still just ninety seconds more, maybe four minutes at the most, and it would have been nearly perfect.
Allan Archer runs the school newspaper. He prides himself on solving mysteries and exposing the truth. When Lizzie Merriweather comes to him a new lead on an old story, Archer's disinterested at first. But she manages to convince him there's more to the story than what was printed in the paper, and Archer's on the case. His search for the truth takes him all over the school and eventually, inevitably, into the clutches of the villain.
If it sounds a bit film noir, that's because The Cobblestone Corridor is heavily influenced by the noir mysteries of the '40s and '50s. The film even goes so far as to use noir dialogue and turns of phrase. Lizzie calls Archer “gumshoe” and Archer speaks with the cadence of an earlier cinematic tradition. The effect is both charming and jarring, due in no small part to the fact that we're dealing with high school students. Unlike Brick, which attempted teenaged noir back in 2005, The Cobblestone Corridor succeeds at pulling it off. Partly because it's short and partly because it doesn't pretend that it's anything but a teen mystery.
Where the movie kinda falls short is with the mystery itself. Mysteries usually follow a formula, and one important element—at least where the audience is concerned—is for all the on-screen clues to lead to the solution. Archer's final clue is obvious to him, but not to us, and as a result we draw a little less satisfaction from Archer's solving of the case. But there's still some fun to be had in a well-scripted setup and payoff, proving The Cobblestone Corridor's young writer-director (and star) knows what he's doing.
Now, if only the movie were just a tiny bit longer, we could fully appreciate the wrapping-up that takes place at the end. To the film's credit, it moves along at a brisk pace, but some character development is sacrificed along the way. When the end comes, and Archer waxes on about himself and those around him, it feels a bit forced. Archer's noir-esque narration is delightful, but the words ring a bit hollow; we didn't really get to see the changes he's talking about because there wasn't enough time for them to happen on-screen.
Still, there's a lot of enjoyment packed into The Cobblestone Corridor's twenty-five minutes. It's a pretty solid mystery with a couple of good twists and turns. It's not perfect, but it's a good contemporary homage to an old genre.
The Cobblestone Corridor is now available on Vimeo On Demand here.Share: