Ten With a Flag – short film review

Directed by Vasco Alexandre
Screenplay by Joe Capps
Starring Bryan Moriarty, Julie Martis, Julia Winwood, Adam Barnett 

Imagine a society that rates every citizen’s intelligence from 0 to 10, and that rating not only affects one’s position in society, but it can also be determined before one is even born.

Adapted by Joseph Paul Haines’ short story of the same name, Ten With a Flag is a short film drenched in trepidation. We follow a young couple, Gemma and Jack, who are expecting their first child. When they discover their unborn baby has been given an intelligence rating of ‘10’, they are shocked as they are both a ‘6’ – although the state soon promotes them to an ‘8’ once it’s known that they have created a perfect child.

But there is a catch. The system that rates intelligence has also detected a rare flag. It states that Gemma and Jack will have to make a sacrifice in order to raise the child, and it must be “something that is sufficient enough to warrant giving [them the] option to terminate the pregnancy”. Yet if they continue with it, their status in society will forever change for the better.

The couple agree to continue with the pregnancy and are moved into a new home as part of their promotion. While Gemma enjoys her new life, the threat of their sacrifice looms over Jack as he can think about nothing but their pending quandary.

Filmed in Scotland, Ten With a Flag is a beautiful-looking short film. It combines generously wide shots of modern architecture and stretches of the Scottish Highlands with uncomfortable and intense closeups of the actors. This brilliantly captures a sense of claustrophobia as well as isolation, which ramps up the tension.

While visually quite rich, the dialogue of this short film is pared back. It’s stilted and unnatural, which threw me at first, but I soon found it complemented the plot and the cold way the fictional society views the worth of its citizens. So much about this short film is cold; the plot, the colour palette, the relationships between the characters. Even the weather is chilly and autumnal.

What I really loved about this short film is that it took its time. It didn’t feel rushed or packed with unnecessary elements. It allowed the concept to breathe and was really captivating as a result.

If you’re a fan of dystopian fiction such as Brave New World or movies like Equilibrium, you’ll love this short film. Visually striking with a disturbing, unsettling plot, it certainly deserves the accolades it has received so far.

You can watch Ten With a Flag on Vimeo.

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