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Film preview: "Sympathy, Said the Shark"


Two filmmakers return to their hometown for the Rochester premiere of "Sympathy, Said the Shark," a new crime thriller from writer-director Devin Lawrence and producer Matthew Mourgides, both Sodus natives. On a dark and stormy night, a young couple -- Justin (Lea Coco) and Lara (Melinda Cohen) -- answer their door to find their estranged friend, Church (Dominic Bogart), frantic, bloodied, and desperate for a safe place to hide from a mysterious someone he claims is out to kill him. They reluctantly let him in, but as they struggle to get to the bottom of the situation, it soon becomes clear that all is not as it appears.

Much of the film is seen from the first-person perspective of one of its protagonists, overlapping certain moments to reveal slight variations that alter our perceptions of each character's actions and motivations. Lawrence's script doles out information slowly, as the ordeal raises issues from the past and uncovers secrets each has been keeping from the others.

To achieve the first-person effect, the filmmakers utilized a camera rig attached to a motorcycle helmet worn by the actors (based on behind-the-scenes photos, the contraption looks like something designed by Jigsaw from the "Saw" films), allowing the performers to shoot many scenes themselves. The method adds to the inventive work from cinematographer Mark LeFleur and adds a level of intrigue to a fairly straightforward story. Though the repetition contributes to the film's occasionally jerky flow, the performances are strong enough to keep us wrapped up in each new development.

"Sympathy, Said the Shark" is actually the second film in recent months to play with first-person POV, following the pulpy, ultra-violent action flick, "Hardcore," which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. Whereas the technique lent that film a hyperactive, first-person shooter vibe, "Sympathy" takes a more subdued approach as Lawrence uses it to play with audience perception and to keep our allegiances constantly shifting. It's a cleverly executed concept and I'll be interested to see what the filmmakers choose to do next.

Devin Lawrence and Matthew Mourgides will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening of their film.