Written and directed by Georgi M. Unkovski (also known for Pepi i Muto), Sticker (2019) follows Dejan (played by Sasko Kocev) who, after an unsuccessful attempt to renew his car registration, falls into a bureaucratic trap that tests his determination to be a responsible father.
This short has a lot of good things to offer. The biggest one being Sasko Kocev’s (To the Hilt, “Tvrdokorni”) performance. He brought a lot of depth and empathy to this character and by the end you can really feel and understand his desperation, and how much being there for his daughter means to him. I also thought that all the unjust brutality he faces makes the audience all the more want to see him succeed. As this is a short, there is objectively less time to have and see character development, however, I think Unkovski with the scripting manages to bridge that gap really well as we see Dejan becomes less and less compliant with the bureaucratic abuse, but even then we still feel for him and maybe even a little satisfied he does what he does. The climax of the film also took my breath away, when he confronted his daughter only to do a double take, and then (without spoiling) his daughter’s reaction to seeing her father, was a truly beautiful and bittersweet ending.
There was also some beautiful cinematography from Naum Doksevski, which I actually think elevated the overall direction of the short. The direction from Unkovski I felt was decent, if not a bit tonally confused. For example, the short starts with an image of Dejan with a black eye and police sirens, which I think leaves a sort of false expectations about what the short is ultimately about, even though it is definitely an intriguing way to start the film. There were also some moments I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be shocking or funny. For instance, when Dejan is in a police interrogation room, and when he pries this gift he got for his daughter out of another girl’s hands offscreen. Moments like these left me a little confused if I was supposed to think they were funny or horrifying or something else.
This leads me to my biggest issue with the short which is the scripting, particularly in the first half. The second half in terms of the script and pacing I thought was excellent and really got me rooting for the main character, which I wasn’t really in the first half. The biggest reason for this is we don’t even see the daughter until halfway through the short. The reason this impacts the storytelling is because before then, we question if Dejan is who he even says he is, especially when he gets pulled over and then put into an interrogation room. The stakes and situation became clearer after that, but it was frustrating for a time because I thought the story was about one thing and the main character wasn’t who he said he was, but then it turns out that he was. It just wasn’t super clear for quite some time and I wasn’t even sure if it was supposed to be that way or not. Another issue I had was in the climax Dejan says everyone sees him as a ‘loser,’ which again was never clear to me throughout the short, and seemed a bit out of nowhere.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
I think this short really benefits from a great lead performance, a very clear and visceral message about brutality from figures in the justice system, great cinematography, and a gut wrenching, bittersweet second half. However, where the short falters for me is some awkward tonal problems, and an extremely confusing and messy first half. A strange case for me of sticking the landing, but struggling to find its way in the beginning.