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The Independent Critic

Julian Deych, Frank Ridley
Anthony Cortez Fernandez
29 Mins.

 "Jimmy Boy" Review 
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I suppose it's the highest compliment that I can give a film.

Maybe. Maybe not.

If I manage to get my planned Heart n' Sole Film Festival off the ground, then it's films like Jimmy Boy that I really want to feature. An ultra-low budget indie written and directed by Anthony Cortez Fernandez, Jimmy Boy was first presented to The Independent Critic a few weeks ago but when I went to check out the film online it had suddenly disappeared.

Not long after this failed attempt to screen the film, Fernandez e-mailed me apologetically and requested that I once again consider screening his film and offering the honest explanation that finances had become an obstacle to where he'd posted the film online.

Ah, the life of an independent filmmaker.

The thing is that Jimmy Boy deserves to be seen, not because it's a technically perfect film but because it's a beautifully realized example low-budget independent filmmaking done right. When you consider that studios probably spent more money to comb Meryl Streep's hair in The Iron Lady than Fernandez did on this film, it's hard not to sit back and simply be in awe of the film that unfolds quite remarkably.

Jimmy (Julian Deych) is a young man who, it might seem, amounts to almost nothing. Seemingly well past the point when he should have moved out of his parents' home, or at least shown some initiative towards the goal, he's instead unemployed, uninspired and unbelievably stuck and still dependent upon his parents. When his parents unexpectedly die, Jimmy's already fragile existence becomes even more fragile as his complicated grief tailspins into a psycho-therapeutic roleplay as he begins to, quite literally, take on often conflicting roles of mother, father and son.

Almost unfathomably, Fernandez has created a short film that in the course of 29+ minutes weaves its way through the heartfelt and richly felt grieving process of a young man who is simultaneously forced to deal with the unspoken truths and unresolved conflicts that existed between he and his father. It helps, of course, to have an actor the quality of Julian Deych, a relative newcomer who gives an exceptional performance in a role that practically defines what it means to be multi-layered.

So many directors would have made Jimmy Boy an over-the-top production or even a psychological thriller. Heck, so many actors would have milked the role(s) for every ounce of drama possible. Fortunately, Fernandez and Deych seem to be clearly on the same page here and the result is a film that is almost meditative in the way that it allows Jimmy to work through the stages of grief. Deych captures beautifully the reality of Jimmy as a boy whose very existence seems to have been dominated, sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes not, by a father whose own dissatisfaction with himself results in his being completely unable to express satisfaction with his son. Watching Deych live out, without a hint of pretense or gimmick, the wildly varying roles of mother, father and Jimmy is simply an awesome experience. Deych's performance is far more than the spoken word, but also the body language and the facial expressions that reveal so much that he's never been able to say.

Jimmy's face as he talks to his Uncle Barney (Frank Ridley), a semblance of light and hope still left in his world, is simply luminous and revealing and even a little heartbreaking. So close to emotionally cracking, you can see and feel Jimmy getting pulled back in as his somewhat fumbling yet ultimately loving uncle reaches out.

Fernandez also handles the film's marvelous black-and-white camera work, the perfect touch for a world that seems to have always been painted in black-and-white for Jimmy. Chung Ming-Wei's production design is exceptional, giving the film a sort of "Death of a Salesman" melancholy.

This is a film that really needs to be seen, and one can only hope it will find itself accepted by a few festivals along the way and that Fernandez is able to put himself and the film on solid financial footing because his is a cinematic voice that I look forward to hearing from again.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic