Writer-director Chris Brake’s Cactus Boy is a powerful little film. Not only is it a rumination on adolescence but also a delicate ode to the idiosyncrasies of memory, personality, and friendship. At just seconds over 17 minutes, the filmmaker weaves a lot of authenticity into such a short runtime.
The story follows loner Winston Prickle (Colin Ford) as the young adult navigates the everyday doldrums of his life. He’s constantly accompanied by his childhood friend, an imaginary life-size cactus. But things begin to shift when a new girl, Clem (Georgia Flores), is hired at the plant nursery where he works. Clem’s arrival forces Winston to reconsider his loyal green friend as well as his solitary youth.
“Clem’s arrival forces Winston to reconsider his loyal green friend…”
Cactus Boy flits back and forth between Winston’s childhood and his present circumstances. The director artfully juxtaposes the emotions we all must process as we tread further into life. Both Ford and Flores play their parts well, wonderfully capturing the tiny intimacies of young attraction to create a tender coming-of-age portrait.
However, while the film’s themes are well-handled, the dialogue can sometimes feel needlessly forced. It is almost as though the script was written to deliberately incite childhood nostalgia in the audience. Even in a movie so small, less would have been even more, as these feelings are universal and need minimal description.
Even still, these moments are rare and hamper the emotional core of Cactus Boy little. The story stirs something exquisite in its exploration of letting go. Brake ably displays how vulnerability, in its proper balance, is the greatest unifying aspect in all of us.
"…stirs something exquisite in its exploration of letting go."