What would happen if Pleasantville became Pleasureville?
Such may very well be the case in writer/director Andrew Lawton's stellar 18-minute short film Have You Seen Calvin?, a delightfully twisted yet surprisingly warm and sweet film about the Davis family, who could give the Cleavers a run for the money with one small exception ...
The Davis family is comprised of dad (newcomer Jeremy Folmer) and mom (Sara Antkowiak, The Long Island Serial Killer) and their two kids, Sally (Lindsay Becker, The Hunt with John Walsh), and Timmy (Joshua Kaufman, I Love You ... But I Lied). A picture perfect family right out of the 1950's, the Davises have their idyllic life thrown into disarray when it's discovered that their lovable S&M gimp, Calvin (Ted Lewis, Pokemon television series), has run away.
Seriously, there are those films where you find yourself wondering how a group of people sat in a room and thought to themselves "Hey, this would make a great film!"
Then, there are those films, like Have You Seen Calvin?, where you find yourself wondering "Why didn't I think of that?"
Have You Seen Calvin? is an absolute delight of a film that hits all the right notes without ever feeling like an overly gimmicky, gratuitously quirky kind of film. Have You Seen Calvin? could have so easily become an easily dismissed one-note experience, but instead it's the kind of symphonic cinema that keeps playing through your mind long after the closing credits have rolled.
It helps, of course, to have a delightful cast as is the case here. Jeremy Folmer and Sara Antkowiak are an absolute gem together, believably coupled with a twinkle in their eyes that invites you into their secret lives without ever completely giving it all away. With her ability to pull off both 1950s innocence and the endearing yet decidedly kinky S&M world, Antkowiak may very well bring fantasies to life as Mrs. Davis, though maybe that's just my own twisted side coming out to play.
While tasked with playing the more placid Mr. Davis, Folmer's facial expressions are a hoot and yet it's equally impressive that his paternal presence never feels uncomfortable or awkward.
Kudos must be given to Lawton for figuring out how to direct two young performers, Lindsay Becker and Joshua Kaufman, in such a film, though it's worth noting that the film's adult themes are rather playfully presented and the overall warmth and familial spirit stays with you just as much as the film's humorously naughty storyline. Becker is wonderfully delightful with all her syrupy sweetness, while Kaufman gives a particularly controlled performance as Timmy, who has one particular encounter while out searching for Calvin that perfectly weaves together uncomfortable creepiness and dementedly dark humor. As a side note, Kaufman has picked up a Young Artist Award nomination for his performance here in the category of Best Performance in a Short Film - Young Actor (10 and Under).
Finally, there's Calvin. Ted Lewis, somehow manages to give a performance that is twisted, sweet, emotionally honest and absolutely hilarious as Calvin. As a longtime voice actor, Lewis has clearly learned how to communicate using his entire physical being and his performance is, without a doubt, the foundation of this incredibly enjoyable and unique film.
The film's supporting cast is all strong, most notably LaTonia Phipps, who delivers one line, in particular, that is absolute cinematic perfection.
Lensing by Zachary Halberd and Josef Orlandi is flawless, while kudos must also be given for the film's original music and Gwenaelle Le Cochennec's creative and inspired production design.
Have You Seen Calvin? has already been accepted into three film festivals, including the Chicago Comedy Film Festival and New Haven International Film Festival, and is set for its world fest premiere at this week's Burbank International Film Festival. For more information on the festival, visit the fest's website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic