A Moving Image of Body Image: Why “The Man and His Wife” Should Be On Your 2018 Watchlist

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

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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