• Miles Stephenson

The Glass (2021) - Montauk Film Festival - Winner of the "Community Short" Award

At the 3rd annual Montauk Film Festival on Tuesday night, I attended the director's panel and screenings of four films: Cracked, Wasted Talent, The Glass, and Queens of Pain. The following is a review of my favorite short from the evening: The Glass (2021) written and directed by Tom Van Scoyoc, starring Matthew Courson, Rosie Dean, Jes Davis, Taylor Petracek, and Phoebe Holden.

This 20 minute narrative short follows the coming-of-age story of Del, the son of a local Sag Harbor boating family displaced by condo developers and the changing sea levels of Long Island. The film begins as a visual poem to the sea. Scoyoc and Sachi Bahra’s photography is meditative and moody with frames of the rippled bay, the dwindling light, and the lines and mast of a sailboat which recalled the cinematography of someone like Terrence Malick. The technical skill of the filmmakers in capturing these beautiful moments is immediately apparent.

Soon the theme of gentrification is explored via vignettes of seasonal residents of Long Island from the city who fail to connect with the history or natural landscape (the nautical poetry of “the glass”) and merely exploit the town as their summer vacation spot. But not all these city people are villains; Del and his friend meet two girls from the city who show an unfamiliar sensitivity to them and their world. Eliza resents the posh attitudes of her fellow Hamptonites as much as Del and aspires to be a teacher who can help improve the world.

Soon Del and Eliza begin a summer romance, shot vividly with golden hour lighting on the beach and during an evening stroll through Sag Harbor’s main street. The neon red Sag Harbor Cinema marquee, although shot digitally to capture the low-light, has the rich grain and hazy color of film stock. It is an extremely atmospheric and weighty shot, enough to sink your teeth in visually for the whole long take.

One element of the film that I thought was weaker was the portrayal of the “cidiots” or the insufferable people from the city who value money over common courtesy. While this archetype certainly exists, their representation seemed cartoonish and flat at times. “I don’t care if the car is $600, get her out here by helicopter if you have to,” a woman in a flouncing sunhat yells into her phone on the beach. No doubt this person exists somewhere (one only needs to watch these new strains of Hamptons reality TV shows to see them), but perhaps a more nuanced portrayal could have grounded the scene closer to reality or even offered some troubling dimensionality to the “cidiot” archetype: why would such a person act this way?

Otherwise, The Glass was a memorable and pensive short that captures the natural beauty of Sag Harbor and the insensitivity of those who abuse it. Leads Matthew Courson and Rosie Dean delivered two strong, emotionally complex performances about the very delicate period before entering adulthood when the whole world seems to shift beneath one’s feet, just as the changing climate alters the future of the East End. 4/5 stars.

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

Miles Stephenson

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