Tom Stuart’s affecting short film Good Boy doesn’t aim to change the world or push forth some sort of trending agenda. Its low-key nature and subtly sublime themes are that much more refreshing in a year where audiences feel like they’re being tutored as opposed to entertained. Bolstered by a wonderful lead performance, Good Boy shows great promise for its director.
In desperate need of money, the hapless Danny (Ben Whishaw) prepares to rob a bank, sweating bullets in his old VW minivan. His mother Jackie (Marion Bailey) provides invaluable advice from the backseat; “You forgot your gun!” she screams after him when he finally gathers the courage to proceed. The gun is an “ancient”, sawed-off double-barrel shotgun that Danny stuffs haphazardly into the back of his pants. “Go get ‘em, tiger,” Jackie encourages him with a wink.
Whether the heist works or not is almost beyond the point. Danny and Jackie embark on sort of a road trip, wherein he seems to randomly encounter characters from his past. A memorable scene involves a free pack of cookies and a pink balloon at a gas station. To divulge more would be a disservice to this charming, lyrical little tale that ends on a twist of sorts.
A lot of the film’s success hinges on its lead, and Ben Whishaw once again does not disappoint. The actor hasn’t had a single bland performance throughout his illustrious career, and here proves that he can evoke deep empathy within a brisk 15 minutes. Bailey provides an anarchic spark as his borderline-unhinged mother.
Good Boy doesn’t even try to avoid whimsy – pink balloons and ancient V-dubs aside, it includes a moment where Danny shoots his gun in the air to prove a point, and a wounded bird falls out of the sky. It’s not just whimsy for whimsy’s sake though – it serves to emphasize the film’s effervescent, uplifting vibes. It’s about memory and forgiveness and moving on. Job well done, Mr. Stuart. Good boy.