Thursday, May 5, 2011

2011 Atlanta Film Festival - Love is All You Need

Directed by Kim Rocco Shields

It's rare that I dedicate an entire review to a short film, but I've found one that warrants it. Love is All You Need is an incredibly powerful statement against bigotry, bullying, and oppression. It takes a clever central conceit that most films would use as one long joke and uses it to make the audience see things from a  different point of view. It is certainly one of the most unforgettable short films I have seen.

Love is All You Need takes place in an alternate universe where same sex couples are the norm. Those that prefer someone of the opposite sex are considered outcasts and are called derogatory terms like queers or breeders. The story focuses on a teenage girl named Ashley who realizes she is attracted to a boy. The film follows her struggle with this attraction and the fallout that happens when people begin to suspect her feelings.

One of the first questions to always ask in these high concept movies is if the story would be interesting without the central conceit. This film most certainly qualifies. In fact, the filmmakers explained in the post-film Q&A session that this is based on a true story and they just transported it to this different world. Too many films try to relay on their gimmick, but this one actually applies the gimmick to a powerful story in a way that it opens the eyes of audience by letting them see bigotry and homophobia from a reverse perspective.

Another problem with gimmick stories is simply playing the gimmick for jokes. There are some moments played for humor, especially in the moments when they show how the world is different from outs (football tryouts are girls only, the parents worry about the "different" drama teacher). However, this film gets it right by staying true the powerful emotional journey that Ashley goes through. Her struggle with feeling a way that society tells her is wrong is compelling and the torment she suffers from others who don't accept her is an all too prevalent problem in this day and age.

The film is also surprisingly technically proficient for a low budget short film. Director Kim Rocco Shields shows a nice visual sense, with a final shot that is just incredible. The central performance by Lexi Dibenedetto is remarkable in how she conveys the powerful internal emotional struggle that her character faces without resorting to hysterical overacting that usually plagues performers that tackle such roles.

If I have one complaint, it is the decision for this film to be screened as part of the Pink Peach Shorts. This is really a film that needs to be seen by straight audiences. Of course, the filmmakers had no say in that and certainly straight people do attend gay films and programs, but I can't help but think that this film could have reached a wider audience of people (that aren't already on board with the message) if it had been included in the Drama Shorts program, for example.

It is frustrating and maddening that there is still so much hatred for people who are "different". Love is All You Need sends a powerful message by making people see what it would be like if they were the ones being treated like second class citizens. The filmmakers did mention that they plan to expand this into a feature film. Here's hoping they are successful and their important message is brought to a larger audience.


Traci said...

Wow!! This sounds like a great short film. I hope it does become a feature film because I think it would be a great message for a more general audience to see.

Anonymous said...

The Best Short Film at the Atlanta Film Festival with a very powerful ending. This would make a great full length film

Justin said...

Lexi is an incredible talent and this film is amazing!

Larry McGillicuddy said...

Thanks for the comments! The film did win the Grand Jury Prize in the Pink Peach competition, so that's pretty cool even if it did really deserve an award in a more broad category.