Though a PSA short film, superb camera works and the brilliant use of the CYOA format makes Royston Tan’s High an engrossing watch.
Nick, a young Singapore executive, discovers potential love/fun on a dating app. An opportunity that involves “chilling” as well. Should he indulge, or should he flee? You decide for him in this choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) style short feature.
Two things to highlight before I begin:
- High isn’t a movie, though it isn’t exactly a short film too. All routes and endings considered, I finished play-watching in less than an hour.
- There are reasons why I seldom watch, and do not review Singaporean movies. Without inviting faux SG patriots to troll this blog, I’ll just say I find many SG movies way too zealous, and correspondingly tasteless, about promoting local culture.
Right. That’s done. On to Royston Tan’s High. What’s most noteworthy about this anti-drug abuse initiative, apart from its bold use of the CYOA “Bandersnatch” format, are definitely the camerawork and lighting. Both are at standards comparable to international productions i.e. Netflix wouldn’t have any issue streaming this short film. I’ll add that the cast threw in incredibly believable performances too. There were moments when the use of Singlish sounded rather, ahem, decorative, but otherwise, story and dialogue flow naturally. It was easy to sink into protagonist Nick’s misadventures.
And oh, the “game” was technically impressive too, being capable of streaming over most browsers. I couldn’t stream Bandersnatch on my notebook or tab. I had no problems at all streaming High on both these.
As for the story, the ROUTES and ENDINGS, well, I’ll disagree with some reviews and say that High is still preachy in a way, despite taking the effort not to come across as too judgmental. (Note: This is not a flaw to me. It is a PSA, after all) All in all, the show does a pretty emphatic job in depicting the life-long repercussions of drug abuse too. The concluding scene for the “bad” ending is one that would surely haunt the nightmares of those toying with the idea of substance abuse.
The accomplishment of its objective aside, though, I must confess I was a shade disappointed about the endings. I know this is asking too much, given whom this short movies is made for, but I was really hoping for wilder and more surreal story branches. Not as in a supernatural ending, or absurdist routes, but storylines that go beyond Nick being a passive victim?
For example, what happens if he transforms from being the prey, to the predator? Or what happens if dear sis is actually … a user too?
Hmm. Perhaps in the future, Royston Tan would consider making a full-length version with twice, thrice the routes and endings.
If that happens, and there’s crowdfunding, I will definitely chip in.
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