Emilio (Charles Stevens) is working on a car at his auto garage, alongside his best friend Trevor (Quinton Aaron). Noticing the time, the happily married man and devoted father needs to rush out to pick up his daughter from school. After homework and dinner, Emily (Ashlyn Jade Lopez) and Emilio are playing a game together. Entering into this picture perfect moment is Mina (Alea Figueroa), the mother/ wife. She had to work overtime at the hospital where she’s an RN.
As the parents are catching up, Emilio confirms his doctor’s appointment the next day. Said appointment is for him to get a vasectomy, as he and his wife have decided one child is enough. While at the medical professional’s office, the doctor (Brendan Jackson Rogers) informs Emilio that he does not need the procedure, as he has been sterile his whole life. Emilio is stunned, shocked, and angry at what this means about the family he thought he knew. Does this new information affect his relationship with Emily? Can Emilio ever look at his wife the same way again?
Thus goes the story told in the short film aptly titled Dad. Written by Valeri SantaCruz and Joshua Joel Ortiz, with Ortiz taking on directing duties as well, this 19-minute drama rings with honesty. As Emilio discusses his plight with Trevor, the friend states that he bets Emilio did not talk to Mina yet. Emilio concedes that is correct and Trevor offers some practical advice, without coming off as too patronizing.
“…the doctor informs Emilio that he does not need the procedure, as he has been sterile his whole life. Emilio is stunned…at what this means about the family he thought he knew.”
The scene in which the news is delivered to Emilio has the doctor cracking jokes along the lines of “…at least you won’t have to pay for the surgery…” and other quaint icebreakers. Then the doctor sees a photo of Emily on Emilio’s phone and changes his tune quickly. It is a very realistic and well handled moment. Throughout Dad, the dialogue is able to shift on a dime as such while still feeling truthful to the moment at hand.
This is due in no small part to the talented cast. Charles Stevens is a remarkably empathetic protagonist, whose outburst after the fact makes total sense. In one act of desperation, he goes to a swab of saliva from Emily to send to a DNA testing company. He walks into the living room and awkwardly shoves the cotton swab in her face. The way Stevens hurriedly rushes into the room and leaves his hand in front of Lopez for a little too long is both understandable and humorous.
For her part, Ashlyn Jade Lopez is quite good as Emily. During the scene just described, Emilio tells Emily he needs the swab because of a health scare. After giving her dad the sample, Emily states that she hopes she does not have whatever it is, and her delivery is natural. Her chemistry with Stevens is quite impressive, and they make for a believable father-daughter team.
“…verges on over-sentimentality at times, it never actually goes over that edge.”
Alea Figueroa proves herself in the latter half of the film and is just as good as the other two. When Emilio finally confronts her, and she’s explaining that all this is news to her as well is heartbreaking. As the best friend, Quinton Aaron is affable and charming.
If there is a negative, it is that the directing is a bit heavy-handed at times. Right after Emilio leaves the garage at the beginning of the movie, the camera pans over to his work station. On top of a tiered toolbox are nuts, bolts, and the like forming the three members of his family. Since this was the start, I was apprehensive that the film would be overly treacle and hard to buy into. Thankfully that is not the case, but that is what makes this moment stand out even more. It is so out of place with the rest of the film that it feels odd. However, this is a minor complaint overall that barely harms the film’s impact in any way.
Dad is a smartly written, engaging drama filled with relatable characters. The cast is fantastic, and the way things wrap up is realistic and engaging. While the directing verges on over-sentimentality at times, it never actually goes over that edge.
Dad (2019) Directed by Joshua Joel Ortiz. Written by Joshua Joel Ortiz, Valeri Santa Cruz. Starring Charles Stevens, Alea Figueroa, Ashlyn Jade Lopez, Quinton Aaron, Brendan Jackson Rogers, Joel Ortiz Jr.
8.5 out of 10 Gummi Bears