It would seem obvious that a short film about a terminally ill child is going to be a maudlin and hawkishly sentimental affair.
Then, one reads that the child in question is afflicted with Ebola virus. Let's be honest. Even the mention of Ebola virus elicits at bare minimum a giggle.
I try to stifle the giggle because, after all, we are still talking about a terminally ill child.
I fail, because there's just something about Ebola virus that makes me laugh.
I will probably end up dying from the Ebola virus but, for now, I still laugh.
The aforementioned child (Evan Boyle) is a rather sentimental young lad with a penchant for real-life stories, and thus begins the heart and demented mind of No Beers for Bradley, a film that centers around the young child's request for a "real life" bedtime story for his more than half-crazed older brother (Aaron Van Geem), who is best described as half David Crowder and half Johnny Depp, the latter being especially appropriate given that the story that follows involves a guy named Brad (Bradley Hill) whose adventures would comfortably co-exist alongside Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Very Bad Things.
Indeed, very bad but very funny things do happen to Brad in this inspired yet intelligent 10-minute short directed by Julian Doan and penned by Alex Hunter.
It helps to have a quality cast and the ensemble here is clearly tuned in on exactly what Doan is aiming for with the film, with Evan Boyle believably child-like yet with a gleam in his eyes while Aaron Van Geem is deliciously demented yet affectionate as his elder brother. As Brad, Bradley Hill makes one think about those children's stories from centuries past that were truly written for adults yet somehow have found their way into culture as beloved children's stories. While this story is clearly all adult, it possesses a faux innocence that makes it all seem that much more fun. Hill's Brad at times looks like he leaped out of the pages of the Animal House kind of way, but moreso like Flounder, whom you couldn't help but really adore no matter how utterly outrageous he became.
Doan's own lensing is inventive and unpredictable, while the original music from Nolan Livesay and Jason Livesay serves as the perfect companion to the film. Clark Hunter's production design nicely captures both the almost fairy tale quality of the bedroom while creating an outrageous contrast within the story itself. The rest of the production team deserves kudos, as well, for creating a convincing film that exists within two very different yet equally arresting worlds.
No Beers for Bradley has already played in 10 film festivals during 2013 and should have no problem continuing that journey as we hit 2014. If you get a chance, check it out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic