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  • Writer's pictureMiles Stephenson

Tara Messenger of Death (2021) - Montauk Film Festival - Community Night at Montauk Point Lighthouse

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

At the 3rd annual Montauk Film Festival on Monday night, I attended the director's panel and screenings of five shorts: The Weedy One, Tara Messenger of Death, Skin Can Breathe, We Are Bleach, and Silent Partner. The following is a review of my favorite short from the evening: Tara, Messenger of Death (2021), directed by Julien Lasseur, written by Brian Groh and Stephanie Little, and starring Margaret Cho, Andie Ju, Stephanie Little, and Brian Groh.

In her 1971 review of Mccabe & Mrs. Miller, movie critic Pauline Kael wrote, “Nobody knows whether this is changing... whether we’re doomed to more of those ‘hard-hitting, ruthlessly honest’ American movies that are themselves illustrations of the crudeness they attack.” Among a slate of awkward social commentaries and not so hard-hitting “truth” movies, Tara Messenger of Death is a short that remembers why most of us come to the movies in the first place: to see something that we can interpret in a variety of ways and not receive as a predigested, moral message.

Tara, Messenger of Death (2021) is open to such an interpretation with its eleven thrilling minutes of black comedy and fun surprises. It revels in the unexpected, even the morbid as it follows backpacking Tara and her boyfriend when they discover a Go-Pro from an influencer who took a tumble onto the rocks. Torn over what to do with the consequential footage, Tara’s boyfriend tries to discard the camera and avoid trouble for the drugs in his bag, while Tara splits from him and plans to report it to the late influencer’s family. But accidents seems to follow Tara wherever she goes, and when she visits the mother at her home, nothing goes according to plan – another accidental death strikes the influencer's family.

In an increasingly streamed and recorded digital age, I liked the premise of a vlogging influencer who captures their own death on camera for an unknowing passerby to later discover. Lead actor Stephanie Little draws from her improv training; she delivers her lines with a quickness and levity that cultivates a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style of comedic timing for the series of unfortunate events that surround her. Despite being primarily comedic, the short is beautifully shot: the scrubby, windswept cliffs of what looks like Southern California are captured in cinematographer Nate Stifler’s sparkling photography.

Tara, Messenger of Death was the most fun I’ve had at the Montauk Film Festival so far and a display of dark comedic writing and technical filmmaking. 3.5/5 stars.

Miles Stephenson

This piece was originally published on Nest by Tamara, an interior design and lifestyle journal. The 3rd Annual Montauk Film Festival is happening Saturday, July 23rd to Sunday, July 31st in Montauk, Long Island at various venues. Visit here to learn more.

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