SLAMDANCE 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Sometimes, brevity is key. Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer’s harrowing short film Chubby manages to say volumes within its 20-minute runtime. It deals with serious issues head-on, yet skillfully avoids exploitation or preaching. Led by the formidable Maya Harman, Chubby will stay with you long after its credits roll. That’s more than I can say for 90% of the full-length features I’ve seen recently.
An atmosphere of dread permeates the narrative, which centers around a steadily-escalating game of truth or dare. The 10-year-old Jude (Herman) plays against the much older Noah (the subliminally sinister Jesse LaVercombe). They curse, drink beer, lick the toilet seat… until Jude is given a choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life.
“…resembles a frozen gasp, a petrifying – but oddly lyrical – peek into the darkest recesses of the mind…”
Chubby acutely examines the repercussions of childhood trauma, how it may lead to the infliction of trauma upon others. Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer wisely intercut Jude and Noah’s game with Jude’s Christmas family get-together. Cinematographer Adam Crosby’s handheld shots capture every subtle gesture, every nuance – and intuitively/fluidly so, as if his camera were one of the family members. A sequence involving a young boy and a plastic bag is particularly strikingly powerful.
Harman is a natural, switching from playful to apprehensive to wounded effortlessly. She holds us rapt throughout the entire film. Chubby, like the frozen pattern on a window it so beautifully depicts, itself resembles a frozen gasp, a petrifying, but oddly lyrical peek into the darkest recesses of the mind through the prism of a child. I see big things in the future for both its young star and filmmakers.
Chubby screened at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…will stay with you long after its credits roll"