January 21, 2021

“David” Review

Therapists are often seen as omniscient emblems of level-headedness, reassurance, and wisdom. Enigmatic individuals who soak up your life story and provide answers to all your burning existential problems; all while you barely know anything about their own lives. It’s almost easy to believe that they have no problems at all – but this is a myth sharply debunked by Zach Woods (The Office, Silicon Valley) in his short film David. Woods’ directorial debut follows therapist Paul (Will Ferrell) as his frustrated teenage son David (Fred Hechinger) crashes his session with a patient – also named David – (William Jackson Harper). David is a hilarious and charming look at fatherhood, the chaotic balancing of home life and work, and the dilemma of whose problems really matter.

Photo © Freestyle Picture Company/Ways & Means

The 11-minute short opens with a distressed patient, David, leaving a sorry voicemail for Paul; apologising but asking for an emergency appointment on a Saturday – this time it’s urgent. Sitting in Paul’s office, David spills about how he’s been contemplating suicide and Paul listens closely, offering sensitive musings and professional advice. But the session is soon interrupted by a red-faced figure yelling and banging at the window – Paul’s son, David. David barges into their session, furious that his father is about to miss his wrestling match. What follows is a chaotic and amusing interplay as David the son tries to drag his father to his game while insisting that David the patient can wait – “What’s his emergency? You look good” – as Paul tries to diffuse the situation and David, the patient, awkwardly lingers between the two.

The short is full of dry and witty lines – “How about you just come with me and come back after… It’s not like he’s suddenly gonna stop being depressed” Paul’s son reasons. While teetering on becoming dark humour as Woods merges suicide ideation with horseplay and wisecracks, David never verges on being disrespectful or dismissive. Instead of mockery or judgement, Woods’ cheery mixing of something as traditionally sincere as a therapy session with something as ludicrous as David the son’s alarming and naïve tantrum creates a film that is more absurd and light-hearted than offensive.

Photo © Freestyle Picture Company/Ways & Means

Not just a comedy sketch, David finds the time to explore some heavier and more sweet moments too. In the midst of chaos and raucous comedy, Woods makes space for Paul to say some hurtful and misplaced things that nobody should ever say to their son – as a therapist, of all people, he should know that. Which leads to some even more unsuspected scenes as David the patient steps forward to comfort David the son – the two people who seemingly need help the most now helping each other. David is one of the most original films Will Ferrell has starred in for many years, Ferrell’s solid performance here is reminiscent of his stronger drama-focused appearances in Stranger Than Fiction and Everything Must Go. Proving that (when he wants to) Ferrell’s acting ability can go beyond obnoxious yelling and screaming and actually flourish into some really layered – but still funny – portrayals. 

Delightfully tiptoeing between absurd humour and earnest portrayals of unconventional relationships, Woods’ debut marks him as a promising director and one to watch out for in the future. David is not only a hilariously offbeat and refreshing comedy but also a surprisingly endearing and sweet look at mental health and parenthood.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Abi Aherne

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.

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Film, General, Short films