Men’s Mental Health, that’s a topic that is not tackled on film often. Indie Director Julian Berger recently contacted The Silver Hedgehog and asked us to review his new Film ‘Big Break’, a film centred around two men, with at least one going through a post breakup depression.
Written, directed, produced and co-staring Julian Berger, Big Break centres around two friends in their early 20’s. Austin Caldwell and his friend Palms. Big Break opens with Caldwell, (an aspiring musician, who’s inspiration is Childish Gambino) having a post breakup meeting with his girlfriend Eve. Feeling that he and his music are not loved, and constantly being reminded of Eve via social media, Caldwell spirals into depression. Trying to save his friend from being eaten up inside, Palms attempts to comfort him, and inadvertently lies to Caldwell about a music competition and encourages him to enter.
Decamping to Palms’ Dad’s house and music studio, Caldwell becomes obsessed with creating music to win the competition and get his ‘Big Break’. Berger’s writing explores the dynamic between the two lads in their early 20’s. One that knows he is depressed, tries to turn to self-help books and sits alone in front of his computer, while raging at the world, trying to write a hit song. The other, who can see the talent his friend has, but seems helpless to support whilst he is in such a state. Having watched Lewis Capaldi’s recent documentary (How I’m Feeling Now), I can relate to one man sat alone in a makeshift studio, trying to work out what his next big hit is going to be. Berger captures this level of anxiety perfectly.
Berger’s writing also makes great use of the friends’ dynamic. Avoiding going down the raucous comedy route, Berger opts for more understated comedic moments. Dialogue is not played for laughs but is occasionally humorous to provide a little respite from the monotony of their tawdry existence. As Big Break continues, Berger introduces Stella, an ex-girlfriend who has connections to the Big Break competition. Stella goes along with the rouse for a while in the hope that it helps support Caldwell’s mental state and she also provides a more sensible counterbalance for Palms. Big Break is not a very fast-moving film, in fact it’s positively sedate. I feel that the pace of the film is a stylistic choice, Berger choosing to present the film in a way that echoes the depressed mental states of the lead characters. What I found super clever is how Berger has structured the story, without giving much away, every scene in the film is deliberately cut to reinforce Big Break’s closing scenes
Big Break has a small but talented cast list, Starring: Hudson Klass as Austin Julian Berger as Palms Marie Zolezzi as Stella Sage Moore as Eve here are my thoughts on the two leads.. couple of casting choices:
Klass nails the depressive personality of Caldwell, so much so I spent the first half of the film wondering if Klass was good at acting, or if he was naturally depressed. In a few scenes, Klass allows himself to break away from the depressed state, just for a few moments, and this portrays a more animated personality locked away within, thus reinforcing Klass’s performance and acting choices. The other thing to note is that Klass has a decent singing voice, but it is sparingly revealed.
In Big Break, Berger plays friend, flat mate, and aspiring manager Palms. Berger pitches Palms as very much the support act to Caldwell. Giving Palms an almost stoned surfer dude personality with a low energy that doesn’t overshadow Klass. I couldn’t help noticing echoes of a young Nicholas Cage in Palms’ voice and performance.
The Indie film nature of Big Break does show through the sound quality at times. The opening scenes lacked bass and felt quite tinny. As a viewer you do get used to this quickly. You would think that a film set around entering a music competition would be filled full of music, spoiler – it’s not. Berger manages to squeeze in references to various musicians, but stays away from any potential copyright issues, giving the film a distinct lack of background score. There are a few scenes that would be helped by the addition of even some stock music just to reinforce the narrative. What music Big Break does have fits well when used, and was written and composed by both Richard Berger (Blue Nights 2022) and Hudson Klass
Being mostly a location film, I noticed no visual effects. What I did notice was that the clothing matched the characters. I particularly likes the Gambino reference Caldwell was wearing, I thought that tied into the character well.
William Martinko is on hand for the Cinematography and overall, I have to say he has done a superb job with the resources available. You can tell this is an indie film though as some of the trickier interior shots struggled with lighting. One scene from a television behind the camera caused the room to change light intensity several times, it took me a few seconds to work out why my TV was flashing. There is also a couple of other scenes where the image goes blurry, now I don’t know if that’s down to Vimeo ‘s screening or if there is a problem on the image. Where Martinko excels is the character interaction, swifty moving from one actor to another. As a viewer you are never left wondering what’s going on. Martinko also manages to pick out the nuances on Berger’s script that work towards that ending I referenced above.
Having recently watched another angsty film about a music competition (Into the Spotlight) I was all psyched to watch Big Break. However, what I found was a film that is the polar opposite. Where ‘Into the Spotlight’ is all about aspirations, love, and making your dreams a reality, Big Break is all about love lost, the struggles of not making it, and post breakup depression. Big Break is billed as a comedy, but I found the film to be more of a drama with slight comedic moments. With its minimal locations, this is the type of film that would lend itself very well to being a stage play. The fact that the film also explores the effect of young men’s mental health in a post-covid world needs applauding. Is it worth watching? Well …..here at The Silver Hedgehog we like to celebrate Indie cinema, especially when filmmakers have a unique story to tell. Julien Berger does have a good story but don’t go watching this film if you want to watch a bright, breezy, snappy film. Do go watching if you want to take time out of your day and slow down, watch a well thought out, well written considered indie film and spend 88 minutes with some interesting characters.
Credits: Words – Garry Editor – JJ Images Entertainment Squad