Chicago International Film Festival 2011
David is Dying Directed by: Stephen Lloyd Jackson Cast: Lonyo Engele, Isaura Barbé-Brown, Brigitte Millar Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins Rating: NR Release Date: TBD
PLOT: An intimate look at a young man who is forced to come to terms with his relationships when he is diagnosed with HIV.
WHO'S IT FOR? Those who like dialogue-heavy movies may be taken with Jackson's way with words. However, it's hard to think of a group of people who deserve to be put through this ordeal.
David is Dying puts me in the awkward position of asking, why does it take David so long to die? Can’t he do us all a favor and make it happen just a little bit faster? There are plenty of movies that suffer from awkward pacing and muddled storytelling, but David is Dying may be the first movie that, clocking in at 87 minutes, made me wonder what was taking so long?
One of the biggest issues with director Stephen Lloyd Jackson’s film is that he never seems sure of what story he wants to tell. The film takes place during David’s therapy session but chronicles his dysfunctional relationship with women, particularly his fiancée Carla, as well as his upbringing with a prostitute mother. How all of these story lines manage to be so staggeringly boring is completely beyond me. The therapy session itself starts off as more of a bookend device for the movie, but becomes increasingly important as the film progresses. What Jackson was trying to say with that is truly beyond me considering the film devolves into a nonsensical, and unnecessary, twist a few minutes before the film ends. The bulk of the movie is his problematic on-again-off-again with Carla, but the film never does much to flesh out what the two have. Jackson takes special care to highlight the serious lows of the relationship, but we’re never given an idea of why Carla would be attracted to this type of guy in the first place. However, perhaps the most offensive storyline is the one between a young David, played by one of the most obnoxious and overly simple child actors I’ve had the misfortune of seeing, and his mother. While David is Dying never says it outright, it repeatedly suggests that the grown-up David’s issues with women stems from his mother’s “choice” of careers. It’s easy to understand how her prostitution would traumatize the child, but what David grows into is such an alarming and frankly, disturbing, departure from the young David. Yes, people grow and evolve, but by the movie’s end, it seems perfectly clear that David is a full-blown sociopath. How did this young boy turn into the man who the bulk of the movie centers around? David is Dying is all too content with not providing answers which ends up being fine because I had no real interest in the character anyways.
David is Dying tasks itself with three jumbled stories that Jackson attempts to tell in under 90 minutes. Such an undertaking is truly difficult for any director but in the end, it seems that the director is unsure of which he wants his audience to identify with and focus on. Paired with an unlikeable and unfeeling lead, it seems like David is Dying is meant to drown in its own insincerity. However, to say that I hated David is Dying is giving the film too much credit. In order to hate it, I would have to feel something for it. David is Dying is one of the worst types of filmmaking in that it fails to make me feel much of anything. Not anger. Not sadness. Just a sense of tedium that lasts long after the film is over.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10