Steve Taylor-Bryant gets on the therapist’s couch as he watches a short film in contention for an Oscar in Zach Woods directorial debut David...
A therapist (Will Ferrell – The Other Guys) receives a phone message on a weekend from one of his patients, David (William Jackson Harper – The Good Place), who is contemplating ending his life and so an emergency therapy session is started with David explaining his problems to a thoughtful and caring Doctor. The session is interrupted when a young guy in wrestling gear bangs on the office window and then enters room, full of pent-up aggression and anger. The young man, also David (Fred Hechinger) is the therapist’s son and is angry that his father has chosen a patient over the wrestling meet that he had promised his son he would attend. Between the patient’s issues, the son’s anger, and the therapist’s way with words things eventually work out.
A film written by guys I associate more with comedy, directed by one of those guys, someone I consider a comedic actor, and starring two guys I only know from comedy vehicles sets a vision in your head of what a film is going to be like. The star power of Will Ferrell is going to kick the doors in with his uncontrollable over the top ‘look at me’ performance whilst The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper is going to play the downtrodden quiet type that is the butt of all the jokes, and the whole thing is going to be comedy Hollywood gloss because of Zach Woods involvement as director and co-writer. Except that is not what happens at all. Yes, there is comedic moments, but this is a charming, lovely little film with Ferrell the most restrained I have seen him in years, William Jackson Harper whilst a little downtrodden as the patient who has suicidal tendencies plays the role with care and commitment, and in fact it is Fred Hechinger who does the over-the-top energetic thing as the other David and my word how the role reversals work.
A subtle Ferrell allowing others to take the lead in any comedy or action is a glorious thing to behold and, in his restraint, he allows the younger Hechinger to really shine. Jackson Harper is delicate with his subject material but grounded enough to make a dominant trio and with some almost retro looking cinematography and some really good clean editing David nails every part of what a short film should bring to the table. It is compelling, entertaining, emotional, tells a good story, and looks and feels authentic. Is it the best short film in contention for the top honour? I do not know but it makes me want to see what else the writing duo of Woods and Brandon Gardner can achieve, I am excited to see what Woods can do in the long form, William Jackson Harper continues to impress, Hechinger I want to see again in something, but most of all I want this restrained Ferrell more in things. It is genuinely gratifying to see Will Ferrell in something with such a serious tone but when there is comedy to be had, step back and like others take the reins. Bravo.
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Images - courtesy Salaud Morisset