Film review by Nathanial Eker
A ‘slice of life’ story is the perfect vehicle for a succinct short film with a clear thematic message. Denial takes a whistle-stop look at the fear of having a child through a sharp narrative structure and an absurdly dense supporting character, in just three minutes. While its acting may be bathetic and its score underwhelming, this simple story of an everyday problem is both relatable and effective.
John and his unnamed wife are going about their day when disaster strikes: the toilet won’t flush. Using his tools to fix it, John makes a far more startling discovery that most would consider plain to see.
The narration employed in Denial thoughtfully uses cinematography to mislead the audience into focusing on the mundane. The choice to shield the wife’s pregnant belly using a mixture of a cut off camera and everyday objects is a clever one. Ditto for the reveal of the pregnancy testing kit that John scrambles with, as both keep the viewer at an objective distance that makes the ending reveal more impactful.
Less impactful is the acting of Timothy J Cox, which is regrettably hammy and unbelievable. Less is often more and unfortunately, Cox chooses to act with the red-faced intensity of a man defusing a bomb rather than one checking a pregnancy testing kit. Director-writer-actor Misti Dawn Garritano fares better as our eye rolling protagonist, though the two fail to capture any genuine chemistry. Yes, they’re clearly having problems, but there’s no sense of any discernible romantic history whatsoever.
Equally ineffective is the ‘comedic’ score, which is unappealingly feeble with its one wind instrument (what is that? A bassoon? A clarinet?). While it supports the tone of the film nicely by exemplifying our protagonist’s eye rolling opinions of her buffoonish husband, it lacks the ‘oomph’ to be properly engaging.
At just under three minutes, the film creates a surprising amount of implied depth. While the metaphysical chemistry is lacking, actions speak louder than words. John’s reaction to the news takes a realistic look at pregnancy that surpasses the clichés of choosing pure ecstasy or abject despair; shockingly, many couples fall somewhere in the middle. The film is, in this sense enjoyably subversive when considering how stereotypically ‘Hollywood’ this comedy plays both its mise-en-scène and narrative beats in every other regard.
To conclude, Denial is a charismatic examination of that ‘big step’ that many go through. Though it’s hindered by a cartoonish lead and a poor soundtrack, there is still much to like about this tight, charming short film.
Don’t deny it two minutes and forty-five seconds of your time; you might find yourself enjoying it.