Review by Frank Plowright
Pickles Yin is a final year art student depressed at the way her work is going and pessimistic about finding any employment once her course ends. She and her friend believe the answer to their problems is snorting an unknown substance bought from a dark website, which will spur inspiration and productivity. This, naturally enough, is a rabbit hole, although one with some unpredictable consequences.
On her website Clio Isadora notes Sour Pickles as semi-autobiographical, and the title certainly indicates a tone of festering resentment at so many of the entitled and confident students Yin’s course cultivates. Part of this is funny, Isadora having them present their ridiculous ideas as somehow original, as if a degree of self-confidence makes that so, but after a while the passive/aggressive combination of self-pity and judgemental commentary becomes wearing. This isn’t helped by other aspects of Sour Pickles missing the bullseye. The dialogue is very awkward, as if written, but never read back to see how it would sound when actually spoken, and the pacing is equally clumsy. Some scenes are rushed when more could be said, while others are stretched out far too long with nothing to say.
Isadora’s art at first also seems off-putting, deliberately flat and spiky, but it eventually becomes the most interesting aspect, as it’s a different way to tell a story. The simple linework in a formative proto-cubist style disguises a visual complexity, and there’s an interesting use of black and white.
There are some valid points made about how the student system is stacked against the poor, but they’re asides in a story that drifts in and drifts out again. Ultimately, Sour Pickles reads more as the catharsis of purging than entertainment for the masses.