SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Writer-director Elizabeth Godar’s Dear Maslow stars Chelsea Debo as a young woman on a journey of self-realization and potential pleasure. She decides to write a letter to her ex. As she pens “Dear Maslow,” she contemplates her life, the decisions she’s made, and if her ex still has a place in her heart. But things change over time, and there’s no telling what this day will bring.
Pink hair, bike shorts, and a scowl – the unnamed protagonist wears each of these things throughout the short film. These wardrobe choices instantly allow viewers to understand that she is one-of-a-kind and true to herself. This uniqueness exists from the first frame to the last. It resonates with audiences and expresses the themes at play, but not everyone will necessarily be receptive to the message. I truly mean this in the best possible way: the film is odd. Everyone watching will see Debo on the toilet, nude, and on a solo date and can’t help but wonder, “what’s the point?”
See, Dear Maslow is toying with a number of themes. Be true to yourself and understand who and what you are. Don’t let others dictate your happiness, and do what makes you happy. These are just some of the things that viewers will take away from the two-minute film. I believe they are things that need to be fully understood in the world in which we currently live. Godar finds immense success in educating audiences on these themes through her unique way of telling a story.
“…contemplates her life…and if her ex still has a place in her heart.”
We never actually hear the protagonist speak. We only hear narration from Godar herself, meaning that Debo needs to be perfectly in sync with it. Obviously, the power of editing plays a pivotal role in the audio and visuals aligning, but in terms of tone, Debo and Godar need to be on the same page. Dear Maslow sees a young, clearly talented actor (Debo) conveying physical emotion. At the same time, Godar is tasked with bringing the same feelings through her audio, and the synchronization of the two women is perfect. Everything I can hear in Godar’s voice is so present physically, thanks to Debo. This makes the film emotionally relevant and immensely riveting. I can hear the protagonist’s pain, her pleasure, her discomfort, but, even better, I can see it, feel it, and it’s almost tangible as a result of the two women’s ability to work so well together.
Capturing the aforementioned emotion comes down to more than just acting and narration but is significantly supported by the cinematography. Again, we see some unique parts of the protagonist’s day, many of them quite personal. Director of photography Mitch deQuilettes does a superb job of capturing the rawness of the content.
Dear Maslow is emotional, unique, uncomfortable, and spectacular. While short, the narrative is powerful, odd, and relatable. Godar has compressed so many actions and feelings into a two-minute block and is able to say everything she wants to say. It is realized with great ease as a result of her prowess.
Dear Maslow screened at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…Godar finds immense success..."