By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
“Gay as the Sun” (2020), a thirty-one-minute short film from director Richard Griffin, is a thoughtful and endlessly hilarious meditation on body shaming and acceptance. Cleverly utilizing the basis of a circa 1960’s-70’s educational documentary, the masterfully done exercise also humorously addresses themes such as women’s wage inequality, hidden knowledge, religion (wonderfully exhibited throughout the work under the guise of a randomly appearing U.F.O.) and the mania of current Republican politics. What the piece also does just as successfully through this aforesaid structure is operate as a deeply personal story. It is one regarding two different men at separate periods in history, the beginning of and modern times, who grow to feel uncertain of their forms. In turn, this makes them feel unsure of themselves. This is a topic that many audience members will immediately relate to and find cathartic as it is showcased on-screen. Such a factor heightens the immense and varied appeal of the narrative. The eye-popping visual aesthetic of the effort, immediately showcased in the opening shot of a group of large sunflowers in a field, only improves the easy joy of the endeavor. This is courtesy of the magnificent and undeniably beautiful cinematography from Griffin.
The exercise is divided into two chapters. The first of which, “In the Beginning”, is a gentle and wonderfully diverting twist on the Adam (Ricky Irizarry) and Eve (Sarah Reed) tale. It is a brisk six minutes in length. What follows this is “The Story of Billy”. Implementing the remaining runtime of the venture, the chronicle concerns the title individual (delightfully played by Graham Stokes) who, following the actions of his parents, feels as if he cannot wear enough clothes. This is out of a personal disgrace for his undressed state. Upon being sent to an all-male nudist camp, he gradually learns to embrace and find himself through the loss of this once overwhelming concern.
The constantly charming and uproarious commentary by the wittily named “Psychologist/ Notary Public” Fritz Lang, M.D. (in a standout performance by Bruce Church) is a continuous source of amusement during this concluding account. What is also just as engaging is Griffin’s deft editing and guidance of the cinematic affair. Furthermore, the smartly paced (there is not a filler scene in the entirety of the picture) and arranged screenplay by Robyn Guilford is brilliant. It is filled with sharp, occasionally tongue-in-cheek dialogue, sly and subtle references to past and present issues and people, and wall-to-wall entertaining situations. Likewise, the enactments are all incredible. For example, Alexander Willis is dazzling as Gardner. The depiction by Samantha Acampora of Beatrice, Nolan Burke as Steve and Sissy O’ Hara as Ivy are all terrific. Terry Shea is just as good as The Narrator. Irizarry and Reed are illuminating in their previously stated turns. Ninny Nothin as Snake, Jay Walker as Poet, Robert Kersey as “Gay Dracula”, and Ronald Martin as The Shirt Bandit are all memorable in their brief roles.
Ultimately, “Gay as the Sun” stands alongside “Yesteryear” (2020) by Chris Esper as the single best non-feature film I have seen this year. It is emotionally rousing in a credible and quiet way. The design is also goofy, upbeat fun for the entirety of the arrangement. Well-fashioned and likable central figures are also frequently incorporated into the latest from Griffin. There is also just the right touch of romance peppered into the proceedings. Such an element greatly augments the variety of the development. With the assistance of these highly effective ingredients, Griffin has crafted a bold, unique, and ardent comedy as only he can conceive. It is a quirky, kind, blissful and illuminating masterpiece.