Tommy [Mike Stevens, Canada, 2018]
The scariest dystopian worlds are those that look just like our own. At first, the conversation between Tommy, a seemingly ordinary teen, and his father could almost be a normal father-son relationship. But the terrifying truth is revealed when they get a knock on the door from the ‘Supervisor’.
Engaging with the contemporary topic of genetic modification, this film explores a future in which children become hand picked commodities that can be selected - and returned - at will. The premise is chilling and the story is well acted, but the short is let down by its outlandish exaggeration.
While the dialogue between the two characters is a little wooden, Atticus Cohen-Yelle is fantastic as Tommy. As his father’s countenance becomes more and more disturbing, his mounting nervousness is desperately palpable, and his final screams are tragically convincing.
Lance Birley also gives a solid performance as callous father Frank Dupree, whose beefy malice is reminiscent of John Goodman’s quietly terrifying villain in 10 Cloverfield Lane [Dan Trachtenberg, USA, 2016].
Nonetheless, Frank is also part of the film’s main weakness. His unfathomable callousness towards his son is just too unbelievable and leaves the character feeling rather two-dimensional. Although we get the sense that things have been building up for a while, Frank’s issues with Tommy are so nonsensical that it is difficult to become emotionally involved in the story.
The incremental commodification of genetically modified people and animals is a worthy subject, and Mike Stevens’ film certainly does highlight some immense ethical issues in selective conception. Nonetheless, the exaggerated plot and inhuman protagonists prevent this film from reaching its full potential.
'Tommy' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.