Black Swell is a dark reminder that our professional labels do not define who we really are and that even many of us do not realize our teachers, doctors, politicians, and students all live their own individual lives.
The story begins with Mr. Fennimore (Richard Kind), a distraught man who seems to be contemplating his life while sitting on a bed of a motel room. It’s obvious something is wrong with Mr. Fennimore when he pulls out a gun. The gun and bottled liquor quickly set the problem of the film in which Mr. Fennimore’s life is not valuable to himself anymore and is contemplating suicide.
Mr. Fennimore is a quiet man. He’s upset and lost in his thoughts until he picks up his head and is disturbed by the neighboring rooms racket of rock music playing in the background. This music bothers Mr. Fennimore enough to set his gun away and leave his room to knock on the door of the room next to his. When the door opens a young man looks cautiously to Mr. Fennimore, who then asks politely for the young man to turn his music down due to the thin walls of the motel.
The young man denies the request and surprises Mr. Fennimore by then reintroducing himself as his past student, Jordan Nesbin, from pre-calculus back in 2004. It’s obvious Mr. Fennimore wants nothing to do with the boy and lets the Jordan know he’s going to head back to his room. This is when Jordan concurs that Mr. Fennimore’s room is next door to his and excitedly offers himself to Mr. Fennimore and enters his room to begin chit-chat and catch up since they’ve last seen each other.
Mr. Fennimore, bothered as he is, is also understanding that his past student hasn’t seen him in many years but his patience wears thin as Jordan asks too many personal questions and makes himself comfortable in Mr. Fennimore’s room and pours two glasses of liquor to enjoy over their conversation. Mr. Fennimore, unresponsive, then loses his temper and yells at Jordan to leave his room.
At this point of the story, I empathize for Jordan because it’s generally understood that a professor is someone safe that a student can go to and talk to for advice and counseling. This assumption was wrong of Jordan to put onto Mr. Fennimore simply because the average person could discern something was wrong with the professor but it gives insight to how unstabilized Jordan’s personality was. Although we met Jordan briefly we understood that Jordan wanted to be listened to and was open to friendship.
After Mr. Fennimore yells at Jordan, Jordan leaves his glass behind and runs back to his room. Finally, Mr. Fennimore has gotten rid of his barrier between himself and his gun until he hears the obnoxious rock music start up again through the thin walls. Before Mr. Fennimore can gather his emotions to get angry a gunshot gets fired behind the rock music. Mr. Fennimore then realizes he wasn’t the only one contemplating his life.
The short film ends with Mr. Fennimore opening the door to Jordan’s motel room peering in to check up on Jordan. This is when the film cuts to ending credits and I was left in silence. As short as Jordan’s scenes were in the short film, his presence was powerful. A young man eager to feel the love and acceptance he had from a teacher but little did Jordan know was that his teacher was also in need of long-wanting love and acceptance.
I ended the film with reflection toward my personal life where it does get hard to love others while distracted by daily challenges but if we begin to separate ourselves from others and think about our own problems we forget that other people have obstacles too. We can love each other in the midst of these obstacles and it’s this love that keeps humans from wanting to end our lives. This is the lesson I learned. While Jordan may have prevented the death of Mr. Fennimore, Mr. Fennimore himself could have saved a life if he wasn’t so self-involved.
The film places a small reminder on our hearts that we too have our issues and while we fight our battles daily so do the other people we meet and work with every day.
The lesson conveyed in, Black Swell was also portrayed greatly with the actors. I had no time to think about the actor’s background. They performed their art so strongly that I was convinced easily that these characters existed. This is the measurement I use to scale excellent actors from not so great actors as someone who watches many short films.