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average rating is 2 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

Apr 15, 2024

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Kabir McNeely
Written by:
Kabir McNeely
Kabir McNeely, Emily Steelhammer, Maximilian Itsikson

Devon (McNeely) is struggling with his life. At only seventeen he already feels that the pressure of the world is too much and as a result it has turned him into something of a recluse. When we meet him, Devon is finding it difficult to make friends or find a group where he feels he belongs, and the feelings he has for his closest confidant and ally, Cameron (Itsikson) are only complicating matters. Devon constantly feels as though he is fat and ugly and as such has been starving himself in order to get his weight down. As revealed to us by a letter containing results of a previous psychological examination, we find Devon is suffering from ‘generalised anxiety’ and a ‘binge eating disorder’.


As we follow Devon’s story we watch as he alienates and pushes away anyone who tries to get close to him. His general demeanour is guarded and rude, and the constant anxiety which he feels about himself causes him to blame other people when they show a genuine interest. His surliness and incessant moping around weighs heavily on his mother (Steelhammer), who just wants to be able to say the right thing, to offer her son some support and maybe even to see him eat something. Cameron, too, would like something to happen and offers up opportunity after opportunity for Devon to get involved and have some fun. Devon though, is too busy hating on himself; he just can’t see a way clear from the situation he finds himself in, and eventually he comes to the conclusion that he may be better taking the matter into his own hands.


What we are being given then, from writer, director and star of Devon, Kabir McNeely, is an autobiographical tale of the difficulties of growing up when you don’t really like yourself. We are supposedly getting the story (this time) from the mother’s point of view, looking on helplessly as her son degenerates into a cycle of self-destruction from which he cannot be saved, mostly because he is unable to save himself. However, McNeely’s need to keep himself firmly in the centre of almost every frame of the film means that this viewpoint is somewhat relegated to the background. It may help explain though, why it is that Devon is portrayed as a character who is so very difficult to like.


Made on a shoestring budget of around $5000, with actors recruited from the Backstage casting site for no pay, it’s obvious that McNeely is struggling to get any sort of professional feel to his production. The direction and photography are fairly amateur throughout, with an over reliance on the over-the-shoulder handicam to take us through every scene, and no real risks or creative ideas seem to have been utilised during filming. The music jars at certain points as over-intense choral singing and strings pop up at inappropriate moments, making a mockery of any (small) amount of drama the scenes manage to create, and the (over)acting from McNeely begins to feel really put on the more into the film we get. The script is, however, true-to-life, capturing the difficulties of growing up in an image conscious society while also showing the awkwardness that comes from being a teenager trying to navigate their own way in the world. The fact that McNeely has himself lived through, to some degree, what he is presenting helps add that authenticity to the dialogue.


It is a shame then, that this is a story which has been told before, almost exactly, by McNeely himself. Not even six months before Devon’s streaming release, McNeely’s previous project, My Name Is Moe (2023) was uploaded onto YouTube, dealing with the very same issues and from which some ideas, dialogue and scenes in Devon have been directly lifted. It is obvious that the subject matter is so incredibly personal and relevant to McNeely that he feels the need to revisit it again in a new production, but with that he leaves himself open to the law of diminishing returns. Anyone who has seen My Name Is Moe will find nothing new in Devon, and unsurprisingly the more that you look at them both the more it feels like McNeely has run out of ideas.


All credit must go to McNeely for trying to highlight a difficult and timely issue which is affecting an increasing number of the current generation, however, with the restrictions surrounding the production along with the amateur level of the filmmakers themselves, Devon just doesn’t do justice to the themes it portrays.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Short Film, Digital / DVD Release, LGBTQ+
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