Tanner Smith’s Verdict (flashback edition): Leon Tidwell’s The Conversation

November 17, 2012

Filmmaker/critic Tanner Smith sent us some takes on somne shoirts that screened during the 2011 KLittle Rock Film Festival. Why not?

By Tanner Smith

The Conversation features the chronicles of a blind hit man, although he constantly reminds the reporter that’s interviewing him that he’s not “blind,” but “visually impaired.” And yes, it turns out there is a difference. The hit man — Trench (well-played by Chad Bradford) — explains it to the reporter (Paige Reynolds, whose overly polite manner in this film makes me wonder if she can play a psychopath) in honest terms, and that most people don’t know it. They either say to him, “Oh you’re blind — let me help you” or “You can see — get it yourself.”

The Conversation tells Trench’s story in just ten minutes and it’s a nicely-done dark comedy about the ups and downs of being visually-impaired and a mercenary. Flashbacks are shown as a way of answering the reporter’s questions. Does he use his disability as an advantage? How do his relationships work out? What are his thoughts on the blind and music? Where does he have the most problems dealing with people? Does he hire a driver to drive him to his hits? Do people pick on him?

All of these questions are answered in a very funny way, with fresh writing displayed here. My favorite is how he responds to the question of where he has the most trouble—“Restaurants.” I wouldn’t dare give away how he reads the food menu. These jokes make you laugh, but they also make you think. Just about every question that’s answered in this movie—broadly or subtly—serves as credible accuracy.

The Conversation was written and directed by Leon Tidwell, who himself is visually impaired. My guess is he wanted to show that “blind” and “visually impaired” are totally different. In an interview with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette film columnist Levi Agee, he claims that the inspiration for The Conversation was his own experiences. He’s not a hit man, but he did have frustrations in finding work because of his disability—it comes across through the character of Trench in this film. The Conversation is a terrific short film (at ten minutes, it’s not too fast or too slow; it’s just right); I look forward to Leon Tidwell’s further work.

NOTE: The interview with Leon Tidwell by Levi Agee can be found here

Smith’s Verdict: ★★★1/2

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