Our Father may be hard to watch, but you wonít find any other film --short or feature length -- that packs a bigger wallop. Michael Gross (Tremors and TVís Family Ties) almost smashes through the screen as John, a father in the last stage of dementia. This is a man who doesnít even know his own son Jared (Michael Worth, also terrific in this role) who seems to be his reluctant caretaker. The action takes place in a small bathroom where Jared is trying to help John take a shower.
We notice right away the estrangement between father and son. But Johnís wild violence toward Jared shocks us, and we feel some relief when grandson Danny (David Topp) comes into the room. Without saying much at all, Danny projects empathy for his grandfather. And when John starts remembering dark secrets from his past, we begin to understand why he failed as a husband and father. Will Johnís family feel the same way? Is there some hope for reconciliation?
With fearless direction by Linda Palmer (Last Call at Murray's), Our Father stands out among the short films Iíve seen. Palmer also wrote the screenplay, which is based on a true story by David Mayhak. This remarkable movie takes on -- unflinchingly -- issues relating to dementia, caretaking, family dysfunction, torture, gender, and repression. Itís truly ďin-your-faceĒ filmmaking at its best. The fact that it takes place in such a confined space while dealing with so many serious problems in less than a half hour simply boggles my mind.
Iím not surprised that Our Father has won numerous awards in various categories at film festivals -- including Best Short, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography at the 2015 Women's Independent Film Festival. It also motivated me to write the poem below.
Secrets revealed when you are old
might improve lives by being told.
Our Father deals with one such case
in a short film you canít erase
from your mind or soul or heart.
Itís first-rate drama -- and true art.
Behold a father in distress.
And watch a son who tries his best
to cope with dadís belligerence
despite the manís past violence.
Within a bathroom battleground
a hopeful tenderness is found.
As is the torture that suppressed
a manís wholeness which he repressed.
Based on a story oh-so true,
this intense film will stay with you.
(Released by Runaway Productions; not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about Our Father, go to the official site at www.OURFATHERPRODUCTIONS.com.