“Ironied“, a 2015 short film by Tyler Parr, is study of contrasts; one of the dark levities of our misfortunes, and the other of the lightness in our darkest of times. Presented as a fitting split of genres, making the short film half a comedy and half a drama, the story follows a social worker, Donald, who after a night of heavy drinking is having a bad start to his day. After a series of mishaps, he finally arrives to his office to see his first client, a homeless man who seeks his help, whose circumstances finally throw his own troubles into context.
Beginning with an aural prologue over opening credits, which establishes Donald’s night of drinking, the film progresses through a quick succession of common nuisances that, put together, renders Donald’s day a strangely slapstick experience of falls, spills and inexplicably hostile encounters. In a domino effect of physical pain and psychological humiliation, he first oversleeps, stubs his toe at home, is groined by an old friend’s mischievous child on his way to work, and finally loses his work bag after an incident of spilt coffee distracts him from it.
Arriving to work after an extended wait for a bus that never shows up, Donald meets with Charlie, a homeless man who came to seek his help after a genuinely depressive day. Shot with the intensity of a close-up that reveals the lightness with which Charlie approaches his distress, held for maximum dramatic effect, Donald learns of Charlie’s mourning for a fellow homeless friend, and his brush with his ex-wife, who’d suffered a miscarriage with him, and his own teenage daughter, who does not remember him. Followed by a random attack by young people in a park on the same day, Charlie realized that he may share the same fate as his friend if he does not seek out social assistance.
Tonally divided into a comedic first half and a dramatic second half, director Parr has cleverly complemented “Ironied”‘s narrative with a demarcation of genre between Donald and Charlie’s experience. Although Donald’s misfortunes may be inconvenient and ultimately alarming for an ordinary citizen, these experiences pale in comparison to Charlie’s far more despondent episodes. Most telling of the difference between Donald’s privilege and Charlie’s lack thereof is their reaction to the events in question; whilst Charlie still finds humour in his adversity, Donald has failed to maintain his professionalism in the aftermath of his tribulation. Parr’s film illustrates that for every glass that is half empty, there is a glass that is half full—it’s all about the perspective.