Strangely funny. A young girl getting ready for her first communion believes she has killed her grandfather. And it’s a comedy? Yup. And a darn funny one to boot. This short falls under that very strange and difficult category “This should not be funny” because nothing that happens is technically hilarious, and yet here we are.
The heroine of Something To Believe In is a preteen girl full of life and love and smiles. She blissfully skips through life, completely unaware of just how bad her situation is. Her mother works too many hours, her grandfather is constantly sick, her uncle is addicted to drugs, and I’m pretty sure her fish is dead. But with her cheerful outlook bourn from a child’s shaky understanding of Catholicism, she faces each challenge with an unshakeable spirit that would baffle even Pollyanna.
One morning she wakes up early and is eager for her grandfather to see her first communion dress. She runs into his bedroom and yells at him to wake up at which point he coughs up enough blood to drench her garment. I’m going to remind you, and you’ll just have to take my word for it, this is a comedy. Her mother comes rushing in to try and help the grandfather, and no matter how much the little girl pleads, the mother won’t help her with the dress, which leads to the little girls first malicious thought. Knowing her first communion is soon and sure that Jesus will grant her any wish, she wishes her grandfather dead. (Again, please take my word for it this is a comedy, and an awfully good one) She wakes up to find that her grandfather died in the night. As she’s wrestling with the gravity of the situation, she finds out her mom has disappeared, leaving her in the care of her drug addict uncle.
“Knowing her first communion is soon and sure that Jesus will grant her any wish, she wishes her grandfather dead…”
So you might see the problem for the reviewer. Everything that happens in Something To Believe In is terrible. Absolutely terrible. Horrifying even. And yet somehow director Fany de la Chica makes it into a comedy. She finds a way to transmute what could have been a dour and bleak coming of age tale into comedy gold. It is a feat of filmmaking alchemy that is astonishing to behold.
There are, of course, some problems. The main characters of Something To Believe In aren’t really very good at acting. But, then again, they are pre-teens. However, with de la Chica at the helm, she manages to get competent performances out of her pre-pubescent stars. The fact that they are super humanely adorable doesn’t hurt matters. You just want to give them candy and pinch their cheeks; they are so cute.
Something To Believe In is a short that must be seen to be believed. I can’t explain how it works or why it works. I can just tell you it does. The audience was laughing so hard they were gasping for air. And I was right there with them.
Something To Believe In screened at the September 2019 NFMLA Festival.
"…the audience was laughing so hard they were gasping for air..."