A Will to Live(D) [Joseph Harding, Australia, 2019]
It is likely that anyone who has ever worked in a job where you have to wear a nametag and sweater vest at the same time would consider dancing with the devil for a shot at a better life. Sound familiar? It is. This basic plot is so well travelled that it has been parodied by both The Simpsons (USA, 1989-) and Futurama (USA, 1999-2013), and if that’s not a signal of canonical status, I don’t know what is.
The story is a simple one: Will (Dane McDowell) sells his soul to the devil in return for the perfect life - but even the angle of darkness can’t fix things for a man so hell-bent on bumbling self-destruction. His non-existent love life and financial circumstances continue to crumble until he unexpectedly finds salvation.
The failure of Will’s life is told through well-orchestrated flashbacks, although these scenes could have been a little longer as they feel a bit rushed. As a result of this, some of the jokes felt a little limp. However, this film is hugely boosted by some small but effective comic touches. For example, Will turns up in a full-blown suit and tie to a café date that inevitably goes awry. Both the director (Joseph Harding) and the actors do well to let the audience notice this themselves rather than labouring the joke by explicitly pointing it out. McDowell’s winningly crumpled facial expressions add to this understated humour.
Another highlight is Samantha Zinner’s portrayal of the devil. A blast of savage noises precedes the transformation of Satan, so we expect the next shot to be a low-budget CGI demon, or some kind of costumed crimson goat. Instead, we see a fresh-faced young woman. This juxtaposition of expectation and ‘reality’ is yet another quiet, comic touch that showcases this filmmaker’s talents.
The short climaxes with a pipe cleaner, party popper filled version of Heaven. The ending is characteristically low key, and works all the better for it. While A Will to Live(D) does not blaze the way for any new territory for this well known story, the film’s whimsical humour gives it a fresh glaze and demonstrates Harding’s cinematic potential.
'A Will to Live(D)' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.