Act of God ‘s authentic charm is what drives this excellent observational short. Unexpectedly funny and poignant, Park Smith and Spencer Cook have made a refreshing and welcome film that shows disability in all of its complex forms.
A disabled man’s commute is interrupted by a $100 bill lying on the sidewalk, just out of reach. It flutters away as soon as he moves towards it, leading him on a chase that forces him to reconsider his toxic ideal of self-sufficiency.
Stuart has put himself into a position where no carer wants to work with him due to how toxic he makes the carer feel. He is an angry man in Act of God who resents his position and has little time for people who placate him. He wants to live as independently as possible but simply can’t. He needs help rolling over onto his back to be lifted to his chair etc. Stuart’s frustration is not well concealed either, even to his new co-worker Steve another disabled person. It feels as if he has contempt for him being there, especially so when he humours their boss by playing along with his poorly thought-out jokes.
Instead of solely focussing on what Stuart must do daily, Act of God ‘s co-directors Park Smith and Spencer Cook (Stuart) divert expectation with the $100 bill plot. There will be a few cases where we are enthralled by one man’s desire to get the money that has been dropped on the floor. However, as day turns to night, we see Stuart more like the person he should be. Less resentful and putting his thoughts into action, the $100 is simply the crux to get him to act. However, there is a joy to be found here, little moments, like Stuart getting swamped by the bikes at night. Not only is it a great shot, but it comes at a point where Stuart seems to need it. That in the dark, there is something magical out there.
Smith and Cook are unafraid to throw in the lines and moments that would frustrate a disabled person. It looks kid is cycling along with Stuart in the morning as if they are racing. The stupid lines of a boss who, while well-meaning, is only making things more uncomfortable for all involved. We see a woman early on wanting to cross the road, but she has stopped and is looking at Stuart. Is she looking at the car behind him and wondering if it will speed up to get around him, or is she just looking at him? For Stuart, there is only one answer, and it must be something a lot of people who use wheelchairs have to deal with, and by having these moments, we are allowed to see things from Stuart’s side. Yet also after his conversation with Stuart, Steve’s side too.
Act of God ‘s openness to give us this observational film that has obviously had moments gleaned from real life is honestly welcome. We need more films like this, for there is a whole wealth of talent that we are missing out on—a fantastic movie from top to bottom.
The annual Academy Awards® Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival will celebrate its 18th year August 11-20, 2022. HollyShorts (HSFF) brings together top creators, industry leaders, and companies and has launched many filmmakers into the next stages of their careers. HollyShorts, a regular on the MovieMaker Magazine Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee list, also engages its community and spotlights short films year-round through monthly screenings, panels, and networking events.
The most recent edition of HollyShorts had six selections nominated for Academy Awards this year with two wins for Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed’s The Long Goodbye and Ben Proudfoot’s Queen of Basketball.
HollyShorts Film Festival will take place in-person at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, and stream via Bitpix TV, with the annual Awards Gala set to take place on August 20, 2022.
For tickets to the festival please click here.
For more of our reviews of the festival, please check out below:
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