Film run-time: 9 minutes | Starring Christian McKenna
Written and Directed by E. M. Walker, Produced by Kegan Sant, Edited by Rob Comeau
“Bill’s Birthday Bash“, a 2016 short film by E. M. Walker, is a visual manifestation of a state of mind; as a mirror of modern isolation and surreptitious loneliness, the film illustrates just how social deprivation can reduce even the most sanguine individuals to a morose state. Bill O’Donnell, unremarkable by most accounts, is preparing to celebrate his 39th birthday. When his guests fail to arrive, Bill grows restless.
Consolidated to a single set of birthday decor and victuals, Bill’s enthusiasm and accompanying festive falsehoods serve to starkly contrast the depths of his despair; through pained phone calls and a subsequent struggle to contain his emotions, the apartment that he occupies becomes a projection of his soul. In bracing against certain defeat, Bill has produced a haven of hope, only to find its superficiality trumped by a pervasive emptiness.
Just as the celebratory signage profess only a semblance of a real well-wishing, so too do the gifts of Bill’s parents, a sweet act that unfortunately only results in a reminder of his lack of genuine love, beyond the prerogative of lineage. There is a tender, uncomfortable truth here, that finds a universal place in mostly barren hearts—I am loved by obligation, not by choice. Such a reinforcement may be enough to unravel reasoning and restraint.
The melancholic finale, although bleak and horribly possible, is perhaps the most redeeming and rewarding aspect of “Bill’s Birthday Bash”. Salvation, as tenuous as it may be, can be just beyond one’s cognition. Given a certain perspective, a psychological reconfiguration, irreversible acts can be avoided. While life changes at a moment’s notice, self-destruction is forever, and not nearly as equivocal.