Directed by: #AmyBrandis
Written by: #AmyBrandis
Death affects us all in different ways. How we handle it when someone close to us passes is a deeply personal and private process. Where some like to be alone, others rely on friends to work through their grief. But even the most sociable and open of us are unlikely to want to rely on the physical manifestation of death itself as our source of comfort at such a time. Unfortunately for Kay, protagonist of Screw the Pooch, she doesn’t seem to have a choice…
Following the death of her mother in bizarre, bird-watching related circumstances, Kay (Nadia Lamin) finds herself perennially accompanied by a new scythe-carrying, skeletal acquaintance. Death (Mark Brandis) is there as she sits through forced condolences over zoom, walks her late-mum’s dog, even as she goes to the bathroom. His presence becomes an increasing source of frustration, and the ramifications of his actions drive a divide between the pair. But over time, Kay learns death might have his uses after all.
Screw the Pooch is a surprisingly deep tragicomedy about coping with loss and navigating the often-uncomfortable grieving process. Director and writer Amy Brandis’ short is a creative and emotional story which manages to avoid worn-out clichés of the personification of death and instead uses the dynamic in an original way to represent all the anger and frustration we feel when someone close to us dies – and how the aftermath can be just as unpleasant.
The black comedy of the film will certainly resonate with the audiences’ dark and cynical impulses. It is unlikely that all viewers will find the humour to their taste, but others will identify with the frustrations Kay faces and the well-meaning but cringe-inducing ways her colleagues and family offer their help, and find the farcical nature of her predicament and her bending Death’s abilities to her advantage as wickedly comic.
Nadia Lamin’s Kay is appropriately weathered and solemn in a performance that anchors the film. Her world-weariness is on full display as she struggles to accept the cruel blow the universe has dealt her. The performance does lack some ‘bite’ at times where the script tries to bring wit to her character. But in the moments that the façade drops and she unveils her inner pain really stand out – a simple embrace of her mum’s coat or her angry tirade against Death as she finally snaps at him for all of the losses that he has caused wash away any humour from the scene, and make you feel all the guiltier when you are forced to laugh once again. Mark Brandis as Death gives a brilliant physical performance, and gives us a pitiful and lonely version of the reaper from under his mask.
Screw the Pooch is a brilliant, dark comic short that manages to make you laugh, cry, cringe and gasp in little over 15 minutes. It is unconventional and niche, and requires a level of cynicism to fully embrace. But for that cynical audience, a laugh is more in need than ever after the year we have had. Especially if it is at Death’s expense.