Underground Film Journal

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Short Film: Manifest Breakfast

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 22, 2011

Reality gets a workout in Nick Beaubien’s very stylized short film Manifest Breakfast. A mysterious, muddy stranger (Marc Vos) walks into an all-night diner and, in short order, the other patrons begin exhibiting bizarre behavior. A waitress hops into a policeman’s lap. A happy couple get into a bloody brawl. Food piles up under the heat lamps. And what connection, if any, does a recent botched bank robbery play in the proceedings?

Beaubien, who also wrote the script, fills his film with nice visual details and dialogue tidbits that connect across long stretches of time between them, creating a coherent narrative out of a fractional representation of reality.

The first great example of this is the extended opening title sequence that includes a slow zoom into a mop swishing water back and forth across the diner floor. So, when a few scenes later the main character enters with extremely muddy boots, it serves as a good visual counterweight joke. Then, Beaubien pushes the joke even further a few scenes later when he includes a tight close-up of the barefoot waitress’ toes squishing through that same mud.

Pretty blonde diner waitress wearing a yellow uniform takes an order

Manifest Breakfast‘s story is told mostly visually. Only one piece of dialogue is truly integral to the plot. (The TV newscaster talking about the bank robbery.) The rest of the speaking parts are there to connect the pieces of the changing reality. The lovey-dovey talk of the happy couple in the opening scene provides the shock of the argument between them that occurs towards the end of the film. The waitress’ early rude delivery contrasts with her overtly sexual acts with the policeman. (The waitress character changes visually, too, to the main character’s love interest.) And the constant barking of the chef’s “Order up” clues us in that the piling up of food under the heat lamps is going to give way to trouble.

Through these bits and pieces Beaubien forces the audience to pay attention and piece the plot together themselves. Keeping things on a slightly mysterious bent, the film concludes nicely with an indeterminate ending, refusing to wrap things up in an obvious way.