Just as toddler Harry (Lucas Nickelsburg) is about to profess his love for his babysitter Lila (Elizabeth Elkins), she leaves him for college. Distraught and alone, with the closing of his favorite store as additional torture, Harry begins to hit the bottles a little too hard. Life looks grim.
Until one day he notices that a new shop has opened, and he meets a girl his own age, Zoey (Mazzy Wiles). The two become inseparable, though the question of whether Harry is truly over his babysitter lingers.
Mark Nickelsburg’s short film, Harry Grows Up, is a brilliant send-up of classic romantic dramas and comedies. Utilizing all the tools and concepts so familiar in those genres, from the meet-cute to the relationship montage to the down-in-the-dumps camera moves, the short delivers what we know in a new way, by presenting the tale through the mind of a toddler.
Which is a novelty that could start at cute and then get old fast, but because the filmmaking is so aware of what it is trying to emulate, and perfectly capable of delivering on that goal, the film becomes that much more impressive as it rolls along. It also messes with your head a little, as the familiar romantic comedy/drama concepts are there, but these are toddlers so what they’re thinking and meaning is not what we’re used to. It’s not romantic in the traditional sense, and the use of the word is mainly because that’s the genre tools the film is working with most often.
And this is adept filmmaking all around. The cinematography is incredible, the pacing is solid, the direction… as the saying goes, never work with animals and children, so if the end result is this good, the direction must’ve been that much more creative and talented. I frankly wonder if the end result quality is matched, or overmatched, in filmmaking difficulty because of that very reason.
Overall, if you can’t already tell, I loved Harry Grows Up. The novelty of it being the perspective of a toddler is cool, but it wouldn’t be as good as it is if that’s all we got. The reverence to the genres it employs add an extra level, and the pure filmmaking talent and skill put this one over the top.
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