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Dances With Films Festival – Spark ★★



Released: 2024 (Dances With Films Festival)

Director: Nicholas Giuricich

Starring: Theo Germaine, Vico Ortiz

Review By: Gavin Spoors

The time loop concept has been exhausted as a storytelling device in general, never mind just within cinema. Writer and director Nicholas Giuricich aims to do something new by putting a queer spin on it. Spark, which debuts at the Dances With Films festival, aims to explore intimacy, and the fear of it within the LGBTQ+ community, using the sci-fi premise but it doesn’t fulfil its potential thanks to different technical elements that don’t quite work.

The audience has an uphill battle from the start, in becoming invested in the story and the world. The over-saturated LA sky and poor audio recording make the production feel far cheaper than it should, which wouldn’t be an issue if the narrative was engaging from the beginning. We’re introduced to Aaron (Theo Germaine), a transmasculine illustrator who has a track record of unsuccessful romantic relationships. Other than living with his best friend Dani (Vico Ortiz), there’s nothing else to Aaron’s character. He’s simply a conduit for the plot and themes at play. 

Aaron meets Trevor (Danell Leyva) at a party; a mysterious, handsome man who he immediately falls for. Their mutual attraction is apparent, and it doesn’t take long for the heat to turn up. During sex, however, Aaron is unexplainably taken back in time to the start of that day. And so begins Aaron’s quest in taking advantage of the time loop to learn about Trevor and make him fall in love with himself. 

Spark‘s main issue is that the themes and messages are clear, but the execution is weak. There are some visually striking shots that utilise golden hour on the west coast but there isn’t a distinctive directorial voice. A lot of the dialogue is clunky, the audio issues persist throughout the entire film, and more often than not the story doesn’t make much logical sense. More pressingly the editing is in need of changes. The larger narrative takes on far too much and is poorly paced, whilst individual scenes lack any breathing room, leading to confusing and sudden outcomes.

It’s a shame because with more time in the oven, Spark could have been something special. A twist that flips the central concept on its head should’ve happened far earlier in the film instead of deep into the film’s latter half. There are other genuinely exciting developments that happen too late, therefore not giving them the time to seep into the themes and make the ramifications for the characters more impactful. Germaine is an exciting new performer (especially after their turn in Desire Lines) who does what they can with a half-baked script, with simple reactions and expressions speaking a thousand words.

As well as being a showcase for great non-binary actors, it’s always wonderful to see queer genre films. This isn’t a typical coming out story we often see in cinema, but a universal narrative that is enriched because of its LGBTQ+ lens. When it works, Spark successfully touches on how us queer folk can mask emotional vulnerability through toxic behaviour, and even a particular type of grief we more often than not have to deal with. The cast of characters are relatable, messy individuals — but the film is a bit of a mess too.

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