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average rating is 4 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Mar 26, 2023

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Mike Doxford
Written by:
Mike Doxford
Samuel Anderson, Izabella Dziewanska, Jill Winternitz

Terrifying children are usually found in Horror films – but Izabella Dziewanska’s Deb, star of bite-sized comedy Non-Negotiable, might just be the scariest of the lot. It’s this outstanding performance that anchors Mike Doxford’s charming short.


Parents Jay (Samuel Anderson) and Kat (Jill Winternitz) wait in trepidation for a meeting with their young daughter Deb (Dziewankska). Their demeanour in a neutral diner setting suggests an intense business-style negotiation is on the way. But as Deb begins proceedings, it is clear the matter between the parties is much more personal: the arrival of an incoming younger sibling. Deb lays out her non-negotiable terms to agree to a new family member, but as the debate intensifies, it becomes clear she has deeper anxieties about what a widening family might mean.


Non-Negotiable is likeable, fun and comical – if somewhat safe and predictable. The premise leads to a straightforward plot that neatly fits the short runtime, and manages to reach a natural endgame and theme that touches upon parental love, fear of change and finding maturity. The film is funny enough to have stood on its premise alone, but finding an emotional heart is what elevates it.


It would have been easy for the film to fall into the trap of being overly cutesy, twee and eye-roll-inducingly sickly as a lot of ‘parental’ media tends to (can you tell a lot of my Instagram friends are having children lately?). But this is comfortably avoided by the brilliant work of Izabella Dziewanska. The film’s young star shines as the calculating and ruthless daughter Deb, with an uncanny emotional command that ranges from unwavering and intimidating to vulnerable and childlike. Rather than monotonous delivery and blank stares that often come with the territory of child actors, Dzienwanska summons a performance that even seasoned artists would be proud of and effortlessly claims the attention of the camera, and the audience. The relationship between parents and child is believable and convincing, especially as the film approaches more intense emotional territory between Deb and Winternitz’ Jill.


Mike Doxford’s direction lays the ground for the performances to flourish. Positioning the audience initially with the parents establishes them as the protagonists, with Deb effectively in an adversarial role. As it is the repeated introduction of Deb’s terms that drive the plot, and as it is the revelations around her true feelings of the consequences of a new sibling that provide its emotional pinnacle, this structing of the story is a wise one. As progress is made, focus is given to mother and daughter, literally drawing the audience closer to each character as they are drawn to each other. It’s ultimately basic stuff, but it is pinpointedly appropriate for what the story needs.


Whether it is for a sweet and charming short film that actually manages to be funny, or just for Izabella Dziewanska’s outstanding performance, Non-Negotiable should be a film offering that you can’t refuse.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Short Film
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