The premise of The Stylist is a very simple one: Claire (Townsend) is working late in her salon, waiting for her last client of the day. When Mandy (Plas) arrives, she’s full of excitement for her swanky business party and wants to look her best; who knows, she may even make a good enough impression to get that promotion she’s longed for.
Accepting a large glass of red wine while Claire works her wonders, Mandy soon begins to drop off to sleep…
As usual with short films, the less one knows about the plot before going in, the better. This is certainly true of The Stylist, as we’re taken on a shocking ride - visually and emotionally - during the fourteen minute running time. With a background in hair styling herself, writer/director Jill Gevargizian shoots the otherwise mundane routine of washing and drying hair as though it’s a Cordon-bleu cookery show (or perhaps Hannibal’s cuisine sequences), with Claire caressing Mandy’s blonde locks with a tender longing. Which, of course, makes what comes next all the more shocking.
Najarra Townsend, who was so sickeningly compulsive in Contracted, is once again superb as Claire. She’s a multi-layered character who goes far beyond cinematic psycho; it’s certainly difficult to elaborate on that without spoiling the intricacies of the story, but rest assured, it’s far from clichéd or predictable.
Special mention must be made for cinematographer Robert Patrick Stern; the film looks stunning, and there’s not a wasted shot thanks to John Pata’s editing and Eric Haven’s screenplay (from Jill’s original story). The score (by Nicholas Elert) is moody, mournful, and unobtrusively atmospheric.
The Stylist has already won awards at its sole festival screening, and we wouldn’t be surprised if more followed. It’s encouraging to see the leap in confidence of the director from Call Girl and the micro-shorts like Grammy and Police Brutality; she patiently tells the story without feeling the need to rush into crowd-pleasing gore sequences and the like. They are there, though, and the wait certainly pays off. It’s not the bloodletting that is the kick for The Stylist, though. The climax is much more affecting than a simple shock. Keep an eye open for this one; you won’t want to miss it.
THE STYLIST (SHORT FILM) / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: JILL GEVARGIZIAN / SCREENPLAY: ERIC HAVENS / STARRING: NAJARRA TOWNSEND, JENNIFER PLAS, ANGELA DUPUIE / RELEASE DATE: TBC