Written and directed by Venita Ozols-Graham, Annie’s (Brigitte Graham) life is perfect – terrific husband, adorable child and a lovely home. So perfect that she informs her therapist she no longer needs to see her, but when the therapist visits Annie’s home unannounced, she discovers Annie’s secret. Also starring: Sean Young, Dan Sykes and Logan Parker.
When films start out with a perfect, clean and tidy family life where they all get along like a 1950’s sitcom, you know to expect something dark or troubled coming down the road. It’s the classic set-up for horror and thrillers, giving viewers a false sense of security before revealing its true nature and while this film certainly doesn’t go so far as impregnating someone with a devil baby or trying to murder their family with an axe, what it has hidden is a sadness and emotional damage that works on more than just a thrill level. That initial happiness is gradually infected by an ominous and sinister air that slowly reveals the reality hidden behind Annie’s smile.
The way that the story is told, there are nods to let you click as to what’s about to happen just seconds before it does, making the experience even more satisfying but if you happen to miss the foreshadowing, it won’t affect your enjoyment of it at all. One of the other things that both the writing and direction do well is playing with the subtlety, there were so many opportunities within its short time frame to go for something more shocking, graphic or violent but instead chooses to be understated and crafty. It’s difficult to talk about the more emotional aspects of the story without giving away too much but safe to say that it deals with a surprisingly harrowing tale that delves into how people deal with trauma. The style of direction has a dreamlike or entranced quality to it that really feeds well into the story, and into the air of knowing to be wary of what seems too good to be true. The location, costume and set dressing choices work extremely well, the classic American family home, with 50s style touches such as Annie’s apron and then moving onto the therapist’s office and adding elements that could potentially mislead you and add a little bit of mystery, they all look great and feed directly into the atmosphere that the direction and writing build.
Brigitte Graham’s performance as Annie is perfectly restrained and optimistic, you see the ever so slightest twinge when the darkness she’s hiding tries to break through and it shows real talent to be able to portray something that subtle in an effective way. Sykes and Parker are a nice addition as her husband and son, they bring that overly perfect energy without pushing it to a point where it feels arrogant or trying too hard, they all have a sweet chemistry as a family. Young also adds a lot, they have two fairly brief interactions but you can clearly see her concern and attempts to approach Annie’s issues in a calm and muted manner as to not aggravate anything, it rounds out the story as a whole.
Who Wants Dessert? presents a story of darkness, emotional damage and denial in an understated and unexpected manner. The choice to stray away from any temptation to throw in violence or cheap shock tactics was absolutely the right choice, resulting in a story that’s clever and subtle but effective. Its direction perfectly feeds into the atmosphere that there’s something more at play to be revealed and does so in a satisfying manner, supported by wonderful sets and costumes. The performances are great and the way that they portray the shift between a perfect life and the deeper sadness that hides behind it goes superbly hand in hand with the directorial and writing styles.
As we’re nearing the end of our festival run, I just re-read this review and want to express how grateful I am that you got it. All of it! Thank you so much for doing this great honor to our film! xo Venita
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