The clever title of Daniel James Dismuke’s short film AAgnostic may just be the cleverest thing about it. It does, indeed, focus on a young woman attending AA meetings and wrestling with her faith. Sadly, the filmmaker fails to develop the hefty themes he lays out, inconsequentially pondering concepts that have been pondered for centuries, and not in a particularly novel way. From a production perspective at least, AAgnostic does showcase some skill.
Grace (Megan Barker) is at an AA meeting, haunted by a traumatic accident. The AA leader (Jennifer Collins) snaps her back to reality, suggesting she turns to God for answers. Yet Grace, along with another member, Amy (Briana Wilson), end up defending the Devil. Soon after, Grace receives a mysterious invitation and wanders into a ‘satanic church’, where she encounters the enigmatic Bartender (Sal Landi) and proceeds to confide in him.
“What’s the difference between God and the Devil? If they’re both causing harm, who’s to say which one’s good and which one’s bad?” is an example of the film’s somewhat simplistic approach to scrutinizing religion. Here’s another one: “I cannot get a grasp of how God lets such horrible things happen to innocent people.” Dismuke haphazardly deals with faith and recovery, relying heavily on a music score that swells to the point of bursting in the film’s final moments to underscore its Grand Themes.
Sal Landi is the film’s highlight, the low-key screen veteran by far the most relaxed presence, effortlessly making lines like “Why must there always be a right side and a wrong side?” sound natural. Dismuke, who co-wrote, edited, produced and directed the short film, knows his camera angles; although the film essentially amounts to two settings, wherein characters wax poetic about God and the meaning of tragedy.
AAgnostic does feel honest/earnest, yet would have benefited from a little more cinematic flair, and a little less awkward existential deliberating.