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Operation Barn Owl (2014)

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Score: 2/10

Genre: Romantic Drama and Short Running Time: 14 min.

Release Date: October 24th, 2014 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Satsuki Okawa Actors: Nick Ballard, Jessica Clark, Phoebe Neidhardt, Ben Seaward


llen (Phoebe Neidhardt), codenamed “Barn Owl,” is asked via her walkie-talkie to track down Jonah (Nick Ballard), the man of the hour. With the help of Vince (Ben Seaward), codenamed “Pelican,” Jonah has planned an elaborate party, to propose to his girlfriend Ashley Patel (Jessica Clark) on the third anniversary of their first kiss. When Ellen locates Jonah, they reminisce about growing up together, revealing an obvious love triangle as Ellen stares longingly at the friend she wishes could be something more – and who is about to become engaged to another woman. They’ve always been so close, yet he’ll soon be out of reach.

The celebration itself is a hopelessly sappy, over-the-top series of stage recreations of nostalgic moments in the relationship of Jonah and Ashley. From footage of random revelry to good friends Amy (Amy Okuda) and Kevin (Akihiro Kitamura) acting out cycling in Paris against a backdrop of animated projections, lights, and sound effects, the skits are excessively sentimental and incredibly unrealistic. Even for the sake of swift romantic recollections, it’s too immoderate.

The preparations and momentary encounters lead only to an unsatisfying little tragedy, full of bittersweet expressions and zero resolution. The audience is thrust into the middle of a story that ends before a proper conclusion can be witnessed, as if this segment is the second chapter to a trilogy of shorts. It’s entirely fragmented and unfulfilling. And though the technical quality betrays a decent budget, something about it appears more like a commercial than a sincere dramatic picture.

Sure enough, just as audiences might be asking themselves what the point of this episode was, it becomes obvious with a lingering shot of a shiny new Lexus and the name of the production company resurfacing prominently at the end: “Lexus Short Films.” Could this really all have been assembled just to advertise a car? Was this the winner of some contest that required the vehicle to be included in at least one scene (like the flashy shorts from in the early 2000s that each featured a sporty roadster)? Either way, the project screams of advertising instead of affecting melodrama, especially as lighthearted music presides over every sequence, even when it ought to shift into more somber melodies. And why must the end titles run almost as long as the short film itself?

– Mike Massie


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