We know that anything in this world has a price, but is fame worth all the necessary sacrifices? Inspired by the recent social phenomenon known as #metoo condemning sexual abuse against women, ‘A Date with Shillelagh‘ is a problematic and extremely actual short film about some of the physical and emotional abuse forms existing in contemporary society that still cannot completely detach from its patriarchal reminiscences. The relations between men and women nowadays is a sensitive theme of this project, but directors Jeff Stewart and Brian Johnston focus on a particular scenario that questions the boundaries of the compromises that people assume in order to gain that much desired popularity. Even though celebrity temptation is an omnipresent component of the human soul of all time, it remains an area that is still insufficiently explored in the cinema of gross, visceral realism (a category in which one of the best films approaching this subject is ‘Precious’ directed by Lee Daniels) trying to avoid the Hollywood clichés of fulminant ascension that radically change the destinies of disadvantaged people. Therefore, the creators of this project have the merit of defying the predictable pattern of a Cinderella-like character, offering a bleak view on the aspirations of an ambitious and idealistic woman who still thinks that only her talent is enough to fulfil her biggest dream.
Despite the warnings of her friend trying to make her aware of the risks she assumes, Jo tries to be in the company of some men who promise the celebrity she always dreamt of. Soon, Jo will face the ugly truth, exposing herself to sexual abuse attempts that destabilize her perception of reality. Her destiny will take a tragic turn, but only so, she will notice, you can be a champion in the jungle of today’s society.
Although the premises of this short film seemed to bring the whole project closer to the relatively minor aesthetic exigencies of a warning clip, directors Jeff Stewart and Brian Johnston build an ambivalent fictional universe evolving from the relaxed atmosphere of a common everyday existence to a psychosis caused by the inability to accept our guilts. The most interesting aspect is precisely this brutal drift towards the subjective perception of the protagonist’s turbulent soul who incarnates the profile of the star for whom the public’s appreciation cannot compensate for their own mistakes. The spectator’s incapacity to discern what is the boundary between the objective and the subjective reality of the main character is not only a result of the dense and balanced script but also of the intelligent technical strategies that delimit both visually and acoustically the successive stages altering the personality of the protagonist. Even though the narrative and psychological potential of this short film can be explored on larger spaces, ‘A Date with Shillelagh’ is, however, an interesting and uncomfortable experiment about the fragility of the human being that becomes a victim of their own ideals destroyed by a petty society.