There is no need to insist: yes, old age is not the most ideal stage of a human’s life, being associated with loneliness, sadness, illness and, inevitably, death. But this perception doesn’t mark a condition per se of old age which, like any other phase, can be full of colour and euphoria. ‘You Need Help‘ is a short film that totally proves this, illustrating not necessarily a philosophy of life, but a refreshing and optimistic perspective that takes away the dark aura specific to this theme. Although it starts from the general pattern of the old man facing the vacuum of an existence defined by routine, medication and temperate “decent” attitude, director Barbara Elbinger radically distances her project from the conventional horizons of expectation, proposing an extravagant protagonist who surpasses his phobias through an unconditional acceptance of his inner child, totally defying the stereotypes imposed by society and, implicitly, by his own wife. Colour, (self)irony, exuberance and playful spirit are just some of the most important principles that guide the creator of this short film, to build a dynamic and nonconformist universe fuelled by the visual spectacularism of directors like Jean-Pierre Jeunet or Wes Anderson, without completely ignoring the deep, hard core of individuals who are aware that death can be the reality of tomorrow.

 

Despite the advice of his wife Doreen who wants to impose some rigor on his new life as a retiree, Fred is convinced that he doesn’t need an insipid existence, waiting for the worst things to happen. As a consequence, he contacts a guru who will help him rediscover the joy of living, returning to the pure energy of his inner child. But will the changes in Fred’s life be to Doreen’s liking?

 

Barbara Elbinger’s non-conformist and fresh vision goes beyond the pre-set standards of dramedy, introducing us to an initiatory journey in the opposite direction, through which the characters travel from maturity to innocence, from resignation to vitality. Thus, it is impossible to leave the spectators indifferent, due to the overflowing energy that springs not only from the bittersweet acidity of the dialogue or from the bright colour of the image, but also from the interactions of the characters themselves who aim to programmatically defy any sterile social stereotype (and, implicitly, most of the good and very good films which depict the cruelty of physical and mental degradation specific to this age). ‘You Need Help’ becomes, from this perspective, a praise for life, an invitation to look at our own path in a more relaxed way, but it is also an alarm signal addressed to those who believe that naivety, innocence or joy of playing disappear with the ending of their biological childhood.

 

For the nonconformism of the characters who attack a varied typology of those who face the burden of old age, for the talent with which the director manages to bring colour in the world of those defeated by routine, and for the sensitivity with which it surprises a couple’s last attempt to enjoy their life, ‘You Need Help’ was awarded with the 2nd Film of the Month distinction in the October 2019 edition of TMFF.

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