Kat Wahlen’s The Whiteboard tells, or rather shows, a delightful love story between two young women who meet in detention. Wahlen’s film includes very little dialogue. Nonetheless, we can see a clear romance budding between these two girls through actions, mannerisms, and of course — the things that they write on the whiteboard.
We get our only spoken words in this film when one of the girls tries to start a conversation with the other girl in detention, but she is interrupted by an abrupt “shush” from their teacher. This leads to the reason for the title of this short film, as the two girls begin to communicate through the whiteboard after their teacher falls asleep. We can then see the beginnings of a blossoming romance as the whiteboard is slowly revealed at the end of the film.
While the film is short and we don’t see what happens after the characters leave detention, it sets up a beautiful story, and we can only assume that they went out on a date after detention ended.
The camera work for this film is standard, but it works for the story. The characters’ faces are never shown, which is an interesting choice when coupled with little to no dialogue, as it can be challenging to tell a story with no spoken word and no facial expressions. The Whiteboard does an excellent job telling the story through body language and action. I also enjoyed the attention to sound design in this film, as every noise is apparent as if filling the space where other films would use dialogue. Every subtle sound is heard and amplified — whether it be the pop of a marker cap coming off, or the squeak of the marker on the whiteboard.
The story line is made very clear in this film and I never felt lost. However, I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief when the teacher fell asleep, as it happened so suddenly. For the story to play out the teacher had to fall asleep — because this is a short film it had to happen fast, but without the teacher’s face showing it was hard to believe that he fell asleep so soon after harshly “shushing” one of the women. I couldn’t see the signs of him being tired, like a yawn or his eye barely staying open. But nevertheless, the story was charming and easy to follow so this detail wasn’t too hard to look past as the film continued.
The Whiteboard was overall a very endearing LGBTQ story, and the choice to restrict the use of dialogue and facial expressions really showed the raw power that actions and mannerisms have when telling a story.
Movie review originally posted on December 9, 2020.