What’s in a Name?
by Madeleine Saaf
The thirteen-minute film, directed by Irishman Benjamin Cleary, tells the story of Greenwood (played by Matthew Needham), a typographer with a debilitating stutter that confines his words to remain in his head. Cleary lets the viewer in on those thoughts, injecting some of Greenwood’s frustration into our own psyche as we desperately want him to be able to pay his cable bill over the phone in the opening scene. It is the actor playing Greenwood, Matthew Needham, who makes this superb character study so engaging. The majority of his acting is relegated to voicework and intricate facial expressions captured in close-up shots that let no detail go unnoticed. From the opening close up of his trembling lips as he tries to speak on the phone to every shot of his aching gaze pointed at the camera to invite the viewer into his being, Needham captivates the audience and leaves them wishing the film would have been extended just so they could spend some more time with Greenwood.
The film quickly moves out of the realm of the day to day struggles and into the much larger issue that is a struggle for most people but even more so for Greenwood: human connection. This frustration is one which may not seem the most rudimentary one for some with a stutter, but through the film the audience realizes just how paralyzing the inability to communicate is especially when trying to form personal relationships. Greenwood has been in an online romance with a woman named Ellie, who seemingly is unaware of his speech impediment, for six months; this thirteen-minute film is the transition point for that relationship as she sends a message to tell him she’d like to meet in person.
The human connections we see Greenwood experience in the film are often missed connections -- a woman seeking directions to whom he signs that he is deaf, a woman being abused by her boyfriend whom he tries to rescue but is left speechless and punched. The only person Greenwood interacts with positively is his father. The most touching scene of the film happens in the father’s back garden. As Greenwood walks to the house, we hear his mind practicing three words over and over: music, pleasure, counting. Then, as the two men play a board game, Greenwood reveals his thought:
Mmm...mmm..mmmusic’s th- pleasure...the hhh..hhhuman soul
ec...ec...experiences from ck...ck...ck...counting...www...wwithout...bbeing
awwware it’s ck...ck...ck...counting.
(Music is the pleasure the human soul experiences from counting without being aware it is counting.)
“I like that one,” his father replies. I do, too. I like all of Greenwood’s thoughts; living inside his head as the viewer is quite a lovely place to inhabit, which only makes it more heartbreaking that in the real world people like Greenwood remain “invisible to the naked eye,” as he says.