Review: Non-Negotiable

Written and directed by Mike Doxford, a couple in a café await with trepidation their harshest critic and most important confidant – their 9 year old daughter. Here she outlines the terms and conditions she requires for the arrival of her new sibling. Starring: Samuel Anderson, Izabella Dziewanska and Jill Winternitz.

In recent years, with the development and accessibility of technology, there’s been a very clear shift in power dynamics between parents and their kids. An aspect that’s then doubled down on with the vanity of today’s society always expecting the picture perfect family. Non-Negotiable takes that idea and has fun with it, handing over almost all of the power to Deb (Izabella Dziewanska). Imbibing her with an enviable confidence, assuredness and determination. The tone is charming, the pacing and comedic timing are great. It’s full of a wholesome atmosphere and it balances its sentimentality with being genuinely funny.

Mike Doxford also clearly knows that there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit cheesy, it’s purely about how you use it. Here, Doxford uses it perfectly because it plays into the warmth of Non-Negotiable. Similarly to how he balances the different tones, the way he chooses each shot pushes a playful seriousness, leaning into Deb’s perspective. It’s a big part of why the film works so well because being able to incorporate those different tones means that there isn’t space for it to become saccharine or over the top. As well as helping to lend more sincerity which is embraced in the last few moments with a lovely show of vulnerability.

A smart, quick-witted child can be a genuine minefield for parents, pushing them to have to be extremely careful about their words or find them thrown back in their face. Izabella Dziewanska’s performance captures that excellently, she’s an absolute joy to watch and brings a surprising range and depth to Deb. Samuel Anderson and Jill Winternitz create a strong team, it’s the classic parental hypocrisy of providing a united front but secretly going against it when alone with their kid. They hold a lightness and joyful air which again creates a balance with Deb’s icy demands.

Non-Negotiable is delightfully wholesome and sweet. Taking demanding kids to the next level with a great sense of humour and a hugely charming trio of actors in Samuel Anderson, Izabella Dziewanska and Jill Winternitz. It’s smartly directed to bring plenty of sentimentality and a touch of cheesiness but also holds onto a sincerity and its final moments are genuinely touching.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

Screening at the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival on 15 April, Aspen Shortest on 16 April & Beeston Film Festival on 16 April

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