Directed by: #ZachWoods
Two Davids. One a mental health patient with suicidal thoughts (William Jackson Harper) and one who wants his Dad to watch his wrestling match (Fred Hechinger); the problem is that what they both have in common is a therapist (Will Ferrell) who needs to be there for both of them. Think Good Will Hunting (1997), but with a bit of The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) thrown into the mix!
The directorial debut of Zach Woods, known for his comedy roles and co-written by Brandon Gardner, also affiliated with writing comedy shorts and TV shows, David (2020) is a charming, witty eleven minute comedy drama with a touching story. The short film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11th, 2020 and was the only US film to be nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or award at Cannes, before the festival was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. The movie has since won two awards for Best International Short and an Audience Award.
The film blends elements of comedy and drama well in this original story, which is hefted by strong, engaging performances from its leads. Will Ferrell plays a therapist who has a way with words but struggles to connect with his teenage son. Although the deadpan line delivery and dry humour associated with the comedic actor are still present, his impressively subtle, nuanced and somewhat restrained performance results in him being completely believable in this unconventional role. His patient, David (Harper), matches the grounded quality of Ferrell’s performance and he displays a warm quality of indefinite kindness and compassion which compels a deeper look into his psyche. The son (Hechinger) delivers an energetic, yet authentic embodiment of an adolescent seeking approval from their emotionally distant parent and has strong chemistry with his onscreen father.
The short is affectionately made and helmed, with warm and inviting cinematography from Andre Lascaris and sharp editing from Nick Paley. The picture almost has a retro style, with a grainy quality to the image and making for an engaging viewing. Woods displays wonderful direction in his well realised use of a single room to tell his story (not counting the final scene), allowing him to get the best out of the actors with the emotional ups and downs that come.
Although the tonal shift between comedy and drama may be jarring on a first watch, the film remains an entertaining watch due to the strong performances from its small cast and the visual quality is conveyed to a high standard. It is clear that all that were involved were passionate about this picture and their dedicated efforts have certainly paid off. The short explores a tricky relationship between a father and his son with a comedic flair, but there is enough drama and an emotional payoff, with a heart-warming ending to leave a satisfying impact.
David marks a promising debut from a talented director, with an endearing and nuanced story, matched by impeccable performances from its leads and a touching pay off, this short is a definite recommend (and a sequel would be very welcome!).
David (2020) Trailer: