Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room (2011)

Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room is an impressive accomplishment for Mike Le Han (director/writer/producer), and his wife, Helen Le Han (writer/production designer).   It’s a 24 minute short film created on a budget of about $50,000, that has the look and feel of one made with a substantially larger bankroll.   Considering the impeccable sets and production design, the skillful photography and editing, the excellent original score, and significant use of special effects, Mike Le Han (the producer) must have used a little magic of his own.

I was drawn into the story immediately by its ominous narration of things to come, the fitting musical score, and the creative camera work as the opening credits magically faded in and out like wafts of smoke in the wind.  The effective use of over-head shots, close-ups and a bit of slow motion also helped to set an appropriate tone of mystery.

Without describing the entire tale, suffice it to say that young Eloise, a 9-year-old girl who lives with her adoptive parents, has just moved to a new home in a small town that is somehow different from those where she has lived before.   It’s a secretive and magical place, and Eloise is at its center.

From my perspective, the most important aspect of any film is its ability to make me feel something.  While watching Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room, it didn’t take long to develop an emotional connection with Eloise.  A lonely young girl, orphaned as an infant, who has no friends and carries with her a worn down photo of what must be her mother holding her a long time ago.  She has a strong attachment to books, and one in particular is a book of magic that was found with her when she was discovered after the disappearance of her mother.   It’s not what happened to her that’s important, it’s how it’s developed in the film that is.  The character of Eloise was nicely developed in a short span of time.  The pace of the story, as well, was excellent.

There’s no question that this short film is a teaser of sorts for a much larger production.  The problem with that, which is not a failure of the film maker, is that its ending is really just the beginning of that larger effort, and it left me wanting to see more.  There are many questions yet to be answered, and if this short feature is an indication of the quality of the directing, the writing, and the production of the feature-length film, it undoubtedly will be on my “highly recommended” list.

Watch the short, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same.   Just click here.

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