Jamison is a young boy living in a world where marbles are as precious as gold. He manages to win the most treasured, precious marble of them all, but it’s stolen away by a villainous bully named Wolf.
But Jamison is determined to win back his marble, confronting Wolf on his own turf. He goes into the match of marbles aiming to get back his prize, but he comes out with something much more than he anticipated.
This magical fantasy short film — directed by Michael Swingler and co-written by Swingler and co-lead actor Carl Petersen — is a richly imagined children’s tale blending a Victoriana, almost steampunk sensibility with the emotional fears and concerns of young children that will nevertheless resonate with all ages.
There’s a heightened feel to all the elements of craft, with the visuals and sound blending a Tim Burtonesque theatricality with attention to dusty, antique detail and a terrifically emotional score. This beautifully realized world is captured in burnished cinematography that adds to the “out of time” quality of the story.
The performances, too, have a theatrical quality fitting the nature of the material, though the film knows when to slow down enough to allow viewers to see decisions being made and feelings being processed. And as the villain, Petersen clearly relishes playing the role of a bad guy who relishes in his villainy, and there’s a pleasingly arch touch of Malcolm McDowell to his performance.
The fantastical fable-like quality of the film could run away with itself, but happily, it exists on a foundation of solid writing and storytelling, which never lets it get too flooded with flights of fancy for comprehension.
The narrative has the challenge of building a world and solidifying a good amount of background information (as well as delivering a good amount of dialogue in rhyme.) But despite the many elements it’s balancing, it pays assiduous care to pacing and character, never overwhelming the young viewers the film is aimed towards. And by the time Jamison plays his final marble, it all comes together in a highly satisfying ending that makes all the craft and care invested into this short gem worth it.
Oscar-longlisted as a winner at the Dances With Films festival, “All the Marbles” offers viewers a journey into a wonderful, imaginative world so immersive that it’s hard to believe the film is only 17 minutes long. Like many children’s films, the ending is triumphant. But like the wisest of children’s stories, it offers a smart, wise lesson in emotions and how to see the world.
Jamison learns that confronting your bully — or your fears — isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about questioning the nature of the game itself, the rules and very mentality of a bully trying to control and manipulate others with fear into a particular dynamic. By upending the dynamic, Jamison changes the stakes of the game for himself, refusing to play the role that the bully wants him to fall into — and instead of being the person he wants and chooses to be.
Transcript provided by YouTube:
in a far-off place is a wonderful world
of old where marvels are treasured as if
precious gold and once every year all
daughters and sons compete in a great
circle until left for new life that one
was James and despite his smaller size
played his heart out one that diamond
but a bitter bully me more from the
shadows appeared snatched everyone
smalls and was rightfully feared and
with the police face must by his side
snatched the diamond trophy along with
Jameson’s pride his father said not to
worry over the marbles one collects bad
things may come to those who obsess over
so our story begins with the search for
Juanita faced his fears alone
did someone lose their way this isn’t
really a place for little boys to play
what’s he doing here what so you think
you better run homeboy they’ll be
leaving here weeping I’m not going
anywhere till wolf starts talking enough
get your little legs walking
whoa we have a guest that showed up
don’t disturb do you misunderstand never
be able to finish my latest design you
keep interrupting me you slither nice
mr. wolf please don’t fret the boys come
back to place a permanent bed
Jamison I won’t be going back Oh Jamison
always a silly-willy I know what you
came here for could it be this little
pretty oh so sorry turning this diamond
but I must admit we’ve all gone quite
far into this little treasure then if
you won’t give it back a challenge huge
for game that is unless you’re afraid
really boy hey how dare you stuck Mike
besides you have nothing left I desire
so the office you I got tired of him yep
wibbels and wobbles well if I bet them
why not I’ll give you a sporting shocked
just follow my signal who lives a whole
have your attention I’ve got a few
things I’d like to mention there will be
three rounds in this brawl and there’s
Jamison I’m afraid you’re going to lose
this fight because my Tiger Marvel packs
some people don’t know when they’re done
whoa for the head the winner of round
I’m joking the theme is the winner
won’t you be happy well just do what I
foxy don’t forget where your loyalty
lies of course that I just assumed on
how terribly sad the diamonds crap now
guess there’s no point in finishing the
game looks like it’s time for you to go
leaving so soon such a shame you might
actually beat him playing this silly
game look I’m so sorry a marble took
such a fall but is that what you came
but you’re surely mistaken I don’t need
the trophy or the marbles you take it
I’m sick and tired of you pushing people
so let’s get back to this game because
tonight you’re going down James always
Paco squawking no play I’m a game to it
and I haven’t got all day
just go already so I can make the
winning shot what are you waiting for
Jamison held his head high woof spell
had been broke his journey led to
something much more than any trophy or
talking his fears were much greater than
one might see but his courage was clear
and said everyone free his father was
right his words from the start they are
more important things to fight for and
they often come from the heart
This post was previously published on YouTube and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.
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Photo credit: Screenshot from video
The post All the Marbles appeared first on The Good Men Project.