The Academy Award nominees were unveiled on Tuesday morning. While the big stories were the six nominations for La La Land and Meryl Streep extending her record number of nominations, at Raleigh & Company, we’re taking a closer look at a talent-packed but often overlooked category—live-action short.
We reviewed Sing earlier this month, which made the cut and is one of the five films nominated. It won several audience choice awards at film festivals around the world and is a co-favorite in the category, along with the subject of today’s review: Timecode.
Producer and director Juanjo Gimenez’s 15-minute film is a visual masterpiece, telling a story with virtually no dialogue.
The film opens with its lead actress, Lali Ayguade heading to work, or, rather, getting swallowed up by it. The opening scene shows her, wearing a peach blouse and bright polka-dotted skirt, walking toward the gaping black hole of a parking garage.
Inside, she slowly strips off the lively-colored clothing and puts on the blacks and blues of her uniform. While she’s able to leave a hint of color, with her purple panties hidden underneath, the process of changing for work clearly breaks her heart, and we track the slow death through her facial expressions.
This is Ayguade’s first film role, and her background, along with the purple panties, gives a hint that this film may be more than its bleak opening promises.
The founder of the Lali Ayguade Company, Ayguade won the Exceptional Dancer award at the London Critics Awards in 2010 and was Spain’s Best Choreographer in 2013.
Ayguade’s character, Luna, punches the clock and reports to her job as parking garage security monitor. She works the 12 hour day shift and exchanges about a dozen words with Diego, the night-shift guard she’s replacing. The two never face each other, and Luna begins a day of excruciating boredom. She deals with faceless customers and takes a call from her supervisor, who asks her to investigate an incident from the previous evening, where a customer claims his car was damaged in the garage.
She pulls up an image of the car in question from the previous night on one of the garage monitors, and the audience is given its landing in Oz moment. From the dark and dull as the security office, we are taken to the garage itself, which is an explosion of color. Bright and gleaming, the spots are an explosion of greens and orange.
It’s enough to make a person want to dance, which is exactly what Diego has been inspired to do. Played by Nicolas Ricchini, founder of his own dance company, Diego is seen on the monitor patrolling the garage. Slowly, the dance moves begin to emerge, at first looking like tics or mini seizures but eventually blooming into full-blown ballet and modern dance moves. It is on one of the latter moves, which sends Diego spiraling across the garage floor, that he accidentally kicks out the customer’s taillight.
Luna covers for him, and, at the day-to-night shift change, she leaves him a security time code, written on a sticky note.
Diego checks the monitors and sees Luna’s first nervous, hesitant attempts at dancing in the garage.
The two begin an illicit relationship, exchanging sticky notes and dance moves every 12 hours. Luna rushes to work, forgetting to punch in, in anticipation of seeing Diego’s latest performance for her.
Eventually, the passion builds enough that the couple actually makes eye contact during their shift change.
The film ends with a new guard being shown the ropes, and we gradually learn that Diego and Luna have left their jobs, exiting with an explosive duet that sends them through the entire garage, security camera-by- security camera.
The film won the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at Cannes and took its category at the Goyas, which is Spain’s equivalent of the Academy Awards. If any short can take the category from Sing, it’s this visual gem that shows that love can bloom anywhere, even the most soul-crushing environments.