What the pandemic, periods of quarantine or isolation and more free time for many, has given us is time. Time to examine how we are living and if that is actually how we want to be. Things like truth and reconciliation with indigenous people, racial justice for people of colour, the environment, and the treatment of women. That last one is linked to the subject of director and co-writer Ben Tricklebank’s debut live action film, Champ.
Two-time Emmy Award winner Tricklebank’s film deals with toxic masculinity. Or more precisely, questions it and examines the repercussions on men – young and older. Toxic masculinity’s effect on women is beyond question. What we often don’t factor into the discussion is the damage it does on men too.
Here is a 13-minute short about 14-year-old Jake (Kingston Vernes) who is on the cusp of being thought of as a mature human. But it seems like he cannot grow up fast enough for his father (Drew Powell – appeared in episodes of The Mentalist and Gotham). His father has definite ideas about how men should act. Pushing his son to be a man now! Wants to teach him to behave that way. This push and pull is going to lead to trouble.
It always impresses me when a young actor turns in a mature performance. Here young Kingston Vernes does not have a ton of dialogue but still manages to convey a lot about what his character is feeling.
The short also has a dark and atmospheric look to it yet it is still nice to look at. Cinematographer Oren Soffer, a graduate of the Tisch School of Arts, does a great job adding to the layers of the story through the look of the film.
Tone is paramount here. Beneath all the good-natured talk from the father, you can sense the tension or even conflict beneath the surface. Still, because the film is well done, the ending is still a little bit of a shock.