Written by Farhad Jafari
What would you change in your life if you could go back in time? This is an ever fascinating and thought-provoking question for the imagination of man who has never, not at least till now, been able to go back for even a second, but has repeatedly asked himself the question for hours and, in some cases, for years: What if I went back? What would change? What could I change?
The film begins with a poem whose narrator does not call it a poem or himself a poet but describes it simply as “the story of my life”. The Lifeguard is a short film written and directed by Brandon Prentiss, who, not surprisingly, produced and edited it as well.
The film starts with a view of a lake where the work, memories and events in the life of the main character John, played by Brandon, all happen there. From the very beginning the ticking sound of the clock is consistent with the question that someone asks the main character in the quasi-documentary section. It is as if each of us could simply see our life as a story.
Lifeguard is a good choice by the film’s young writer and director, for a lifeguard is someone who safeguards others, or rather, saves their lives, from drowning or getting hurt, but who cannot save himself.
The story unfolds in two parts. The first part is more like an interview, followed by a narrative of John’s life, both narrated by John himself.
The film raises the above question and then we enter the life of the lifeguard. Scenes from the not-so-distant past of meeting the girl of one’s dreams in the shimmer of sunlight and water, kisses, and moments spent together and making memories. This is what the lifeguard might think he would want to change if he could go back to the past: he would have changed his fate certainly by not letting this girl slip from his hands so that he would not regret times lost and experience loneliness today. Loneliness that we see in detail in the film through scenes from John’s daily routines: listening to soft music, cleaning his work equipment, feeding and talking to his pet fish in an aquarium, looking at photos of his lost love, and spending his holiday alone reading books and eating his meal in the bathtub. The day ends with the ticking of the clock and begins with the sound of the clock again. A telephone conversation with the employer and a short argument about working hours and the city's budget, and the like, and anger in solitude that ends with John talking to himself on the beach, calming himself down and continuing his work. The main character of Brendan's story, as he confesses, may not be smart and may have messed things up a lot, but he is honest. And his first step in honesty is being honest with one’s self. John always seems to be trying, like when he tells the interviewer that the last time he saw his beloved, he even begged her to return. John tries his best, in both emotional and business relationships, but in the end he accepts what happens.
The piece of music chosen for this almost 30-minute film, “Look at your game girl!” by Charles Manson, goes perfectly well with the world of the story.
Filming and camera movements are satisfactory and appropriate. The frames show the good vision of the cameraman and the camera does not distract you from the story. The locations are beautiful and chosen smartly and appropriately, suitably depicting the world in which the story takes place. Moving scenes of the city along with the music advance the story, revealing to us what the story is about: a lifeguard meets the girl of his dreams, while we hear “Look at your game girl!” with the line “the sad sad game” repeating, on images of colorful boards, the same houses that we see everywhere, and cars parked all over the place. These are all in the city with a camera in the car showing all our life as we pass by every day. Perhaps this itself is a poem that simply flows in the nature it depicts.
The acting in The Lifeguard is satisfactory, although there is always room for improvement. And if we look at the film world with John's attitude, everything will be better. I may not be the best, but I'm not the worst, I am as worthy of love as anyone else is.
The worldview of the character or the writer-director of the film in the story world can be clearly discerned from the events and especially the narrator's statements. A man has lost things, but accepting the situation comes with transformation. John is a fan of Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, and reads a passage out loud in the bathtub while eating:
He became friendly with the camel driver who fell alongside him.
At night, as they sat around the fire, the boy related to the driver and his adventures as the shepherd. Through one of those conversations the driver's pull of his own life I used to live here, I had my orchard, my children and a wife that was saying not at all, so I died.
One year when the crop was the best ever we went to Mecca and I satisfied the only obligation in my life. I could die happily and that made me feel good.
But in the end the news breaks that Alexis, the girl he loved, is engaged. We see a view from above the lake clad in clouds and fog. John resigns. The main confrontation takes place here, the confrontation with self. He goes to the cemetery and it is here that he realizes life and existence and even death are beautiful and poetic.
At the end of the film, the slightly nervous character of the story, who is calmer now, freed from his clothes, watch and binoculars that he left on the beach, stands in a frame before the water from its perils he used to protect others.
In the last seconds, in the ripples of the water, we see the reflection of the image of the protagonist who takes off the last piece of clothing, a colorful swimsuit that he had found on the beach, with the pattern of a cactus on it, as if ready to splash--determined, naked and free. In the last frame, we see the swimsuit left on the beach again—the same swimsuit that when he found it he said: This is a masterpiece.