The earliest moments of Rob Levinson's dramatic short A World of Hurt promise us a compelling family drama, a seemingly simple story of a husband (Jeff Armstrong) and wife (Michelle Snyder) torn apart by the tragic death of their son and the subsequent days, weeks, and months of complicated grief and unresolved woundedness so deep that even their devout faith seems ill-equipped to soothe their pain.
However, A World of Hurt eventually becomes more than a family drama and certainly detours away from the faith-based drama this film initially appears to be. While faith, on some level, remains at the core of its messaging there's much more going on in this 21-minute short than initially meets the eye.
Both Armstrong and Snyder convince as a somewhat estranged couple, their marriage tattered but not quite torn as they cope in distinctly different ways and have yet to have found a way to bridge their differences and re-discover the common ground that long served as the foundation of their marriage. Snyder's Addison appears to be your typical country wife, a woman of faith whose introduction to us hints of hopefulness and a desire to rekindle her faith and her marriage. On the flip side, Armstrong's Wyatt carries with him a much deeper edge as if revealing his true feelings may very well cause a tidal wave of emotion he'd likely be unable to control.
It is to the credit of both Snyder and Armstrong that we believe their togetherness as much as we believe their current chasm of existence.
For a good majority of A World of Hurt, it is disagreement over a received letter that fuels the action and serves as an opening, if you will, for this non-communicating couple to begin tiptoeing toward opening up to one another and perhaps beginning their steps toward healing.
Somewhat unexpectedly, A World of Hurt becomes more. If you're expecting a kinder and gentler film about grief, this may very well be where Levinson loses you but, in reality, for anyone who's ever lost anyone, especially through particularly traumatic means, it's a realistic detour that adds depth, emotion, and intensity to the goings on and to everything that's unfolding here. For Armstrong, in particular, it's a broadening of his performance here as we begin to realize the depth of Wyatt's suffering and the degree to which he's willing to go to resolve it.
A World of Hurt is, indeed, an appropriately titled film that envelopes you in the world of unfathomable loss and trauma response that this family lives out and that many will understand and many won't. Levinson's script digs deeper into the kind of woundedness that many can't fully understand and refuses to serve up easy answers or greeting card endings. Eric Andresen's lensing is bold and brash throughout and matches with Levinson's sharp, precise dialogue.
A solid indie effort for Levinson and his ensemble, A World of Hurt is a compelling, thought-provoking short film that stays with you even after the closing credits have rolled by.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic