Ethan (Jason Lane Fenton) and Robert (Albert M. Chan) are heading to the adoption agency to meet with a young woman, Victoria (Kerri Patterson), who is carrying the soon-to-be-born child they will be adopting. The meeting seems pleasant enough, but it is also awkward, as Victoria asks them what names they’ve come up with, and the two contemplate some of her suggestions. An offhand comment by Ethan about the rarity of Asian babies as adoption options seems to rub Victoria the wrong way (she and Robert are both Asian), but for the most party the meeting goes as planned.
Unfortunately for Ethan and Robert, however, complications arise later and the couple finds themselves truly tested in their relationship. Are they ready to be parents? What other matters have gone unspoken between them for too long? Are they capable of staying strong if their plans should crumble?
The Commitment is a fine dramatic film with some soft, almost deadpan comedic moments. It’s a very earnest mood, and the film wears its heart on its sleeve. Ethan and Robert are on the cusp of a huge life change, and no amount of thinking and planning can truly prepare anyone for what it means to be a parent, and besides, life doesn’t always go along with one’s plans anyway.
On the technical side of things, Albert M. Chan’s short film is competent and strong in all areas. Nothing spectacular or incredible. When things need to be in focus, and you need to hear dialogue clearly, it’s all spot-on. The subject matter can be dominating and memorable enough on its own, so sometimes all you need is just a solid foundation with the rest of the pieces for it to work.
The racial undercurrent that finds its way into the film, if only fleetingly, was one of the few moments that seemed a little “off” for me, however. Not to say that it couldn’t, or didn’t, fit the narrative, but it does seem to appear a little out of nowhere to add a level of drama to the film that I don’t think it truly needed otherwise (especially considering how lasting its impact isn’t). Again, not that it can’t work, but it was just a bit too surprising to me when it happened.
Overall, The Commitment is quality all around. It sometimes wanders too far into sweet territory for my own comfort, but the earnest way in which it does so makes it work. It’s not trying to be manipulative of the audience, this is just the emotions the film wants to express, and how it wants to do it is very straightforward, and dialogue can be on-the-nose. At the same time, this isn’t an exercise in over-emoting and saccharine cute; it’s balanced for the most part, and when it isn’t, it’s not off-balance for too long.
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