Director/animator Patrick Smith has the mind of David Lynch and the hand of Bill Plympton with “Handshake”, which does as any good piece of animation should: It implores us to ask questions not only about our lives, but about the nature in which they exist.
Here, at a bus stop, strange circumstances whirl around a guy and a girl as he becomes attracted to her and offers a handshake. With motion that’s just as real as any actress can attempt, she’s unsure at first, but smiles and puts her hand in his. Then, when he tries to pull away, the troubles mount. His hand has melded into hers. The honest question here is, “Why did this happen?” But that’s an answer better left for young kids who may see this, for which “Handshake” is just as appropriate. They’ll enjoy it on that surface level of just seeing these two people trapped within this twisting, winding situation. But for us, it’s a matter of our own relationships, mainly those romantic ones. Who are we when we meet this person? How do we change once that attraction starts to sizzle? Does our relationship with this significant other become clingy or allow us just enough space to breathe on our own, while breathing with each other? As both of them struggle to free themselves of each other, it becomes not a matter of life or death, but of those emotions which drive us into and out of relationships.
There are other forces in “Handshake” which cannot be ignored and those come from the music by Michael Suby and the Trone Orchestra as well as the calm and occasionally wild backgrounds from Tony Curanaj, Don Poynter, and Olivia Ward. Just as much as Smith and his admirable brain are responsible for what “Handshake” is, the urgent music and the backgrounds contribute just as much too. This is one piece of animation where everything is crucial on every kind of level. And it succeeds not only as animation should, but also for Smith, who is welcome in the independent film world anytime. I expect more from him.