Mitch (James Kay) joins his sister Sophie (Mary Jo Wood) at the family home to care for his dying father. While accompanying his father to the hospital for chemotherapy, Mitch meets Gabby (Beth Miller), who is there for the same reason, only with her mother. The two strike up a quick friendship, and Gabby suggests a strange idea, that Mitch can’t help but go along with.
Michael Stevantoni’s short film, It Is What It Is, doesn’t do a lot of hand-holding, and exposition comes naturally in conversational exchanges. We know that Mitch’s father likely has cancer because of the chemo visit, but no one explicitly states that he is dying of cancer. This contextual ambiguity also leaves some of the actions of the characters open to interpretation. Mitch’s agreement to Gabby’s plan, for example, could be for any number of purposes, and we’re left to guess what those might be, but there are enough contextual hints; the film just expects you to do some mental work.
While I may not know the exact reason that Mitch went along with Gabby, for example, I can imagine the benefits of the experience. Without spoiling anything, it’s a transformative moment; a reset button as well as an empathetic opportunity. It’s sacrifice and salvation. It’s much expressed with little said.
The technique of saying more with less is one that I applaud, as it shows a grasp of filmmaking and storytelling that isn’t as common an understanding as you’d imagine it should be. Does the film walk a thin line between trust in the audience and impenetrably ambiguous? At times, yes, but it also admirably pulls the balancing act off.
Which is absolutely insane when you consider the fact that the filmmaker created this film while attending eleventh grade of high school. The talent and potential here is staggering. To be this far along in their craft before the age of eighteen is to be applauded, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
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