Stephen Portland’s debut film, Something, which he both wrote and directed, is brilliantly executed. Taking place inside one house over the span of a couple of days, we follow an unnamed couple (Michael Gazin and Jane Rowen) through their journey of first-time parenthood. The wife is exhausted from continually being woken up by the new baby, and the husband isn’t doing too much better. It’s obvious that both parents are having a little bit of trouble adjusting to life with a newborn.
“The wife sees a man in the baby monitor. The husband doesn’t believe her…”
Both parents are doing weird things. The mother (she is unnamed and only credited as “woman”) accidentally locks the door and keeps the window open to the nursery. The father is supposed to go on a trip and find his packed suitcase and passport in the trashcan. The wife sees a man in the baby monitor. The husband doesn’t believe her until he, too, sees a man dressed as a doctor, but this time in the house. It’s hardly coincidental at one point in the film the wife/mother can be seen singing “Ring Around The Rosies” to their young son.
After the second time, when the husband sees the man in the costume, the wife calls the police. The baby is outside, and the masked man is nowhere. The cop (Joel Clark Ackerman) is suspicious and feels like both parents might be on drugs or drunk. When he discovers this is not the case, he says he will come back around later at the end of his shift. He maybe shouldn’t have left.
“…a masterfully intelligent, delightfully spooky meditation on the dark side of being a first-time parent.”
The film is short (an hour and twenty-four minutes) and deceptively simple. Its short length doesn’t deter from the excellence of Portland’s storytelling; it only amplifies it. Something is a masterfully intelligent, delightfully spooky meditation on the dark side of being a first-time parent. It also illustrates the power of a mother’s intuition and how all-encompassing post-partum depression can be for both the mother and the father.
However, once you reach the end and you see the great cameo from the inimitable Eric Roberts, you might yell at the conclusion. Not saying it’s bad, but one may be frustrated (in a good way) that all the facts were in front of them the whole time, but they didn’t know it. It’s a wonderful mystery in horror film clothing. I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing what Portland comes up with in the future. Something is an incredibly solid debut feature.
Something (2019) Written and Directed by Stephen Portland. Starring Michael Gazin, Jane Rowen, Joel Clark Ackerman, Evan Carver, Elise Zell, and Eric Roberts.
8 out of 10