When’s the last time a short film punched you in the gut in a happy, beautiful sort of way?
Enter “The Man and His Wife,” a silent film written and directed by my friend Levi Adkins*.
The story (kept to a perfect, waste-free 19 minutes) follows a young man and a woman on the brink of a relationship. But this love story zooms in on the painful, awkward bits that keep us from love – particularly the common struggle with body image for men and women.
The two protagonists carry the baggage of body image throughout this film – and the conflict is strong between insecurity and the vulnerability of love. Rousing? Yes. I was on the edge of my seat like this was “Die Hard” or something. I really wanted love to win. You’ll be pulled in, too, you’ll see.
I felt it bodily – all of the oh-damn-it-all awkwardness of liking someone, all of the fear of revealing oneself, all the joy of getting the “yes” to that first date. I got the same feeling here that I got from Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade,” a wrenchingly funny/sad/beautiful coming of age story released earlier this year. “The Man and His Wife” has raw truth and goodness, but you only get there after going through some shit.
As a writer, Levi has remarkable empathy for the subject (if you want to understand how guys cope with vulnerability/love nerves, see timestamp 15:05).
Oh, and you’ll definitely be able to laugh at this, too. If 4:12-4:27 doesn’t make you crack up a little, you’re lying.
Let’s talk about execution.
There are no words for this kind of goodness, and so Levi didn’t use words. A bold move but a good one. The team stripped back on unessential details. They even took out the color. Pro move. For a movie about the body, there’s just what’s needed – no gratuitousness. These people have taste. And even with all that economy, there’s so much attention to detail in the timing and selection of the videography (Nicholas Vallejo directing photography) work – I love the shots at 5:15-5:33.
I loved both of the lead actors. Levi has always had a good skill with body language, and he puts it to use (see 6:23). He also has great co-lead in Anna Rak. You could watch most of the story arc through her facial expressions and eyes.
That music, tho – great job by Cole Collins. For better or for worse, I have artsy independent movies pegged as having boring music. But Cole did a great job of creating a mixed score with music that complemented the romance, awkwardness, waiting, elation, and tenderness of the scenes. I was not bored – I was pulled in.
The whole creative team behind this work deserves a hand. They made a great pitch, executed on it (with little more than $1300 contributed), and delivered a great short film. This was a great Kickstarter, and I hope it touches many more people.
The creatives on this team are going places, and I hope to see more work from all of them together. But special shout-out to Levi for creating genuinely good, true, beautiful, and complex art. His heart and mind are with the human, not against the human. And that’s something I want from more of the world’s art.
*There was a whole team involved here, from Levi to Cole Collins, Nicholas Vallejo, Anna Rak, and last but certainly not least the talented and wonderful artist Josie Adkins