It was in the summer of 2014 that director Mike Buonaiuto launched his campaign via the Indigogo crowdfunding platform, the £22,842 he raised for his short film project from over six hundred contributors representing 370% of his goal, but he was a man with not only a vision but a mission, to challenge the representation of gay characters in a science fiction film.
In an unspecified near future an asteroid has collided with the Moon, fragmenting it, knocking it out of orbit, its slow descent towards the Earth causing vast storms and tidal surges across the globe before the inevitable final impact. With casualties numbering in the hundreds of thousands the emergency services are overwhelmed, hospitals unable to cope and evacuation is underway before the end of the world, but time is running out, as are spaces on the rockets.
John and Scott (Anthony Topham and Alex Hammond) know how bad things are. They were lucky to have got out of London at all and have taken shelter in an isolated cottage in the country, but they know the end is coming. Their only hope is that their young daughter Ellie (Tia Kenny) might survive where they cannot, taken to the unstated destination offworld, a life among the stars but without her fathers.
The husbands are visited by an assessor, Taylor (writer Jamie Thompson) who confirms that she is “in the Goldilocks zone, old enough to be of use aboard, young enough to survive the journey, no genetic defects of major worry.” But there is a cost: the passage is not free, and John and Scott do not have enough to cover the buy-in for Ellie. Instead they will have to offer something else.
While Buonaiuto’s intentions are admirable and sincere and the film is beautifully and atmospherically shot on its minimal budget, the sparse use of digital effects seamlessly blended into the narrative alongside a few archive shots of Saturn V launches (a curiously inefficient choice for a planetary evacuation), good intentions alone are insufficient to carry even a short film.
Credence may only last thirty minutes, but in the manner of a short story where every word and phrase must be relevant, must advance the story, Thompson’s minimal dialogue and Buonaiuto’s presentation convey little beyond a contrived artificial sentimentality, a tragic montage of formerly happy family flashbacks of Ellie and her daddies playing on the beach in place of genuine characters, the slow motion intended to impart depth and importance to the generic images.
With their characters barely sketched, too much has to be carried by the sad piano soundtrack rather than the actors, it is Topham who carries the film, John angrier and more determined than Scott, with Hammond seemingly disengaged as he moves through his scenes. Without conveying the fire in their relationship nor is their pain believable, though it is Thompson’s awkward delivery of dialogue he himself wrote which undermines the crucial opening scene which plays like a first read-through.
So convinced is the film of a significance it neglects to earn, instead of flying the flag of inclusion, this feels as though it has been straightwashed. Buonaiuto’s low-key approach is a double edged sword; there is no drum-beating over Ellie having two fathers and in fact the only tweak necessary to to adapt the script to a “traditional” family would be Ellie’s nicknames for John and Scott, Bear and Action Man, but that conscious reticence to address that which was promised should make it groundbreaking and unique renders it toothless and disposable.
Neither is it innovative as a supposed work of science fiction, the crisis unfolding offscreen and the actual science fiction elements little more than disposable background detail without which the core of the story would run identically against any other refugee crisis in which parents are forced to make terrible sacrifices for the sake of their children, but rather than that parallel granting Credence a universal relevance its lack of conviction makes it forgettable.
With the visual of the shattered Moon familiar from the 2002 adaptation of The Time Machine, it carries the too-obvious influences of Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi and Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca in the stirring strings over close up shots of slow-motion rocket launches or lighting up the evening clouds from afar but achieves neither the emotional depth of these nor scales their intellectual heights, and while that is perhaps an unfair comparison for a substantially smaller production nor is there an impression of a greater story needing a broader canvas to be effectively told.