WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
First, the Recap:
The deprivation within. Losing something or someone near to us is never easy. When we’ve invested time to maintain and share in a mutually beneficial connection, suddenly having it torn away leaves a wound inside, and coping with it becomes a hard, painful reality. Take for example one young girl named Thea (Kaylynn Burgin), whose loss is more than personal, more than just anyone close, more than only a treasured companion. With the actuality of this still festering, even over time, Thea has isolated herself inwardly and outwardly from the world, keeping no friends or real engagement in it, much to her mother Kathleen’s (Madison R. Wells) consternation and concern.
Previously having sought assistance for her daughter via a doctor, Dr. Stevens (Jim Van Dolteren), but to no avail, Kathleen also has serious reservations about Thea’s only friend, Max (Doug Jones), who doesn’t even exist. Yet, Thea’s imaginary confidant is more than real to her, as he provides both needed comfort and solace as well as humorous distraction via quite silly antics. However, Kathleen’s insistence to help Thea get on with life takes on a new form via a boy named Billy (Cooper Pierce), who takes a liking to Thea, even if at first only because being told to. As Thea’s interest in Billy begins to slowly blossom into more, though, Max suddenly recognizes the attention given him, and his very continuation in Thea’s life is suddenly in jeopardy.
Next, my Mind:
Taking the entire notion of imaginary friends and completely turning it on its head in the most excellent, heartwarming, endearing, and bittersweet ways, director/co-writer/co-producer Mikeal Burgin’s 29-minute short film delivers the pathos in spades, leaving you both in tears and with a great sense of the magic independent film efforts bring. Thanks to both a fantastically chosen cast and an affecting music score from composer Eros Cartechini, you are swept away in a touching, effective, and powerfully subdued human narrative that tackles the ever-so-popular concept of loss and coping, but wraps it in an engaging and decidedly original take on a childhood staple. Never a dull moment also thanks to solid writing and steady cinematography, it’s the complete package for any lover of films and indie offerings.
Kaylynn Burgin is sweet, delightful, yet potently real in her role as Thea, a young girl faced with the tragedy of losing a precious connection early in life and choosing to deal with it in ways she sees as helpful, supportive, reassuring, calming, and even joyful, despite the fact that it’s all a symptom of not being willing to let go and allow life to take new turns and offer fresh bonds that are tangible to form. Jones totally enraptures the viewer in his turn as Thea’s imaginary friend Max, a carefree, goofy, yet loving and protective soul whose own attachment to Thea is rooted deep. This makes the twist in the tale that much more impacting when it beings to occur, and Jones simply nails it all to a “T” with heartfelt, raw vigor and intent. The emotional depth is so intense, and both actors take you there with poise and purpose.
Wells’ performance as Thea’s mother Kathleen is also quite strong as the characters navigates the complexities of being a parent concerned for their child, exasperation and all, while also trying to maintain a certain level of understanding about why Thea is still hanging on to the sense of loss she is. The earnest effort Kathleen makes in introducing Billy to Thea is totally from the right intention, and Wells certainly emotes well as she enacts Kathleen’s reaction to Thea finally coming out of her pain. Pierce makes a good appearance as Billy, Thea’s classmate thrown into a less than enviable position that turns into much more than he expected, for the better it turns out. Additional characters from Von Dolteren, Lou Bolster, Deidra Mohr, Gary Martin, Braden Rood, and Jasper Rood are also present to required effect.
Overall, “My Friend Max” is an absolute must-see for filmgoers as it deserves the notice and success that so many indie efforts do. It gives us the allure of fantasy in handling adversity and the charm of childhood, while also providing the hard but necessary lessons about loss, life, and being willing to take on the future in a much grounded, palpable state of being.
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!