ALL SQUARE was my final screening of SxSW and I decided to see it after discovering it won the Narrative Spotlight Audience Award. By this point in time I was tired, disoriented, and a little confused about where I exactly was. Although I was in a very unfit state to watch a film, ALL SQUARE woke me up in the best kind of way possible. It showed me true love, companionship and what it means to be human all in one heartfelt ninety minute film.
John Hyams’ feature follows a rather unlikable but charismatic, down-on-his-luck bookie (Michael Kelly) that meets a 12-year old boy (Jesse Ray Sheps) after a one night stand with a long time ex-girlfriend. Through this relationship with the young boy, he decides to begin taking bets on his youth baseball games to make up for lost cash.
It requires a certain skill to make a truly obnoxious human being likeable in the eyes of an audience member. Usually, these types of narratives come equipped with a youth-slash-lover in peril to give the viewer a sliver of hope, tension, or anxiety to the outcome of the protagonist. ALL SQUARE ran the risk of becoming unlikable, but due to the incredible amount of ambition and charisma behind and in front of the camera, it feels like something totally new. Timothy Brady’s screenplay will leave anyone appalled that this is his first time working on a story for the screen, mainly because it seems like Brady has nearly polished off a majority of first-timer mistakes. Such as major characters being developed with the care and depth they deserve, and razor-sharp dialogue that would go onto generate a heartfelt chemistry between our two leads.
Jesse Ray Sheps, who is mostly new to giving performances on feature-length films, delivers a performance that could warm the heart-strings of the coldest person on earth. He contrasts with our lead, Michael Kelly, in the sense that his moral compass works quite well, he sees the inevitable hardships that some of the children have to go through and begins objecting towards the bets. The tension this creates lingers throughout the narrative and continues to tightly grow, along with the performance. With all these wonderful themes, subject matters and characters coming full circle, it’s hard to not fall in love with everything ALL SQUARE is trying to say.
ALL SQUARE is currently playing on the film festival circuit. Be on the lookout!