On two occasions in my life, a person from my past called to tell me, “we have to talk.” So, I show up in some not-so-public location and the other person tells me they need to apologize and “making amends.” In all honesty, in one case, the person hurt me in ways that were hard to forgive. Yet, forgive I did. In Jessica Petelle’s Age of Dysphoria, she takes an intriguing spin on the “ninth step.”
Against the advice from her sponsor, Finley (Laura Vandervoort) is compelled to fulfill the ninth step only after a few months of sobriety. After a cigarette break, sober friend Wes (Rainbow Sun Francks) encourages her to do what her heart says.
Later, Fin walks into a diner and approaches an older man Fred (Gordon Pinsent), and the two sit down at a booth. Fin tells Fred that she wants to apologize, which immediately prompts Fred to whistle the server over to take their order.
“…suffering from Alzheimer’s, Fin goes along with Fred’s story and pretends to be whomever he thinks she is.”
Fred introduces Fin as his wife and orders her usual, fish pie with ketchup. He asks her if she stopped by the store and whether she talked to Jim. It’s becoming clear that Fin has no idea what he’s talking about. Probably suffering from Alzheimer’s, Fin goes along with Fred’s story and pretends to be whomever he thinks she is.
From a production standpoint, Age of Dysphoria is an excellent short all-around. Fantastic cinematography and sound. The acting is exceptional, particularly from Laura Vandervoort, which I’ll go into detail later. All this to say, it’s well-produced and looks professional.
But really, the heart of Age of Dysphoria is its story. Fred is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and every day, he wanders from his home to the diner on some repetitious loop. He lives alone, and no one accountable for his day-to-day whereabouts. Fin is now caught in this need to confess and apologize for what she did to him in the past, knowing he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. At the same time, she’s riding this wave of Fred’s condition, not knowing how far is too far in playing these characters endowed upon her by Fred. Vandervoort finds that authentic edge in Finley and we’re right there with her as I wonder exactly how I would handle the situation, which is what short film like this must do.
Age of Dysphoria is a heartfelt film of human interactions, involving themes of forgiveness and restitution, and needs to be seen by anyone with an ounce of compassion.