In very few cases, the addiction themes were more amusing than they were in this short film, ‘With Friends Like These‘. Perhaps, this fact happens because in a world obsessed with small dramas, with traumatic micro-universes specific to family nucleus, the predisposition of filmmakers to highlight the sordid layer of life or to exaggerate the miserable nuances of the degrading human condition, limited the audience access to a different and counterpointed perspective to this aspect. Indeed, the quest for authenticity targeted by most of the film directors that seek to discuss the consequences of alcohol or drug addiction has restricted the wide range of cinematographic formulas to just a few visual patterns that organically reject the contrasts between tragic and comic, opting to create a gloomy and traumatic universe. And yet, even if the cynicism degree of Ryan Bennett’s project doesn’t rise to the psychotic visions or to that tragicomic paranoia crises of a film such as Trainspotting (directed by Danny Boyle), the combination of narrative and visual formulas oscillating between madness and farce, between cheerfulness and schizophrenia, makes this short film a smartly designed product for more than one audience category.
This short film renders one day in the life of Kathy who tries to write an e-mail to Pat, her husband, who, due to his wife’s alcohol addiction, left her, after taking their both children with him. Although the atonement text that Kathy wants to write should mark a year since she stopped consuming liquor, the protagonist didn’t give up her vice, finding her inspiration among wine, vodka or whiskey bottles. However, the coherence of the protagonist’s written discourse is diverted by a series of bizarre voices that give Kathy a piece of advice on the content of the mail in which she asks her forgiveness. Terrified by this peculiar polyphony that distracts her attention, she notes that all these voices belong to the liquor bottles decorating her apartment. Finally, Kathy accepts the idea that alcohol is still an obsession disturbing her present, while she ends up writing the message in which she asks her husband to accept her again in her own family.
Despite the apparent simplicity of the chosen epic thread, ‘With Friends Like These’ excels through an excellent dose of contrasting discursive formulas, surpassing that – sometimes grotesque, sometimes ostentatiously violent – monotony of previous cinematographic productions focused on the theme of addiction. The quasi-surreal pretext used by the filmmaker becomes a catalytic element in deepening the protagonist’s soul abyss, whose constant twist between agony and ecstasy takes her out of the flat characters category. By choosing a homogenous visual formula that doesn’t aim to create a horizon of expectation defying the premises of normality, Ryan Bennett’s project overcomes the conventional patterns of a realistic drama about self-loss, lies and truth, family and pain, exploring the sensitive traumatic core of an alcohol consumer through minimal, but extremely spectacular, elements. Even if at the end of the movie the spectator still can doubt the fairness of the Latin phrase In vino veritas, the magnetism of this tragicomic cinematic project will not be neglected even by the most pretentious cinephile.