Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Writer and director Justin O'Neal Miller walks a careful line in this cheery yet tense little comedy."

Peggy (Sarah Blackman) is a woman who tries to do everything right. She's impeccably dressed and coiffured, relentlessly charming, studiously polite and, by her own standards, exceedingly patient. She's also determined that her eight-year-old son Ander (Mies Isaac Miller) should eat only healthy food and play only with safe toys that will teach him good values. Uptight as she is, Peggy is working so hard to make a good impression that it's hard not to feel some sympathy for her - but when friends and family members arrive to help celebrate Ander's birthday party, her struggle to maintain her composure reaches breaking point.

Writer and director Justin O'Neal Miller walks a careful line in this cheery yet tense little comedy, at first inviting us to despise Peggy and all she stands for, as some of her guests clearly do, yet ultimately allowing us a glimpse of the rage inside her. It starts with knowing looks between women who feel slighted by her Stepford elegance and continues with a painful sequence in which one after another of Ander's presents are dismissed as unsuitable whilst he stands there looking longingly at them. Ander, of course, has been raised to live this way and as he does an impressive job of coping with disappointment, it's the adults in attendance who gradually become overwhelmed by the desire to behave in childish ways - with very messy consequences.

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Crisply shot with lots of bright colours to help maintain the stubbornly upbeat mood, this is a film that will remind most viewers of one occasion or another when they've been trapped with people they despise, making every effort to be gracious despite the fact that everyone present is aware of one another's real feelings. It also emphasises the gulf between the professed desire for perfection and the way most people feel when confronted with it in real life. Though we remain at this party for only a little while, it makes quite an impression. Miller has captured a snapshot of the all-American poster family just inches from chaos. When all that carefully maintained order collapses, it's hard not to feel a sense of glee.

Reviewed on: 08 Jun 2019
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Peggy's social graces are put to the test when she throws a birthday party for her eight-year-old son.

Director: Justin O'Neal Miller

Writer: Justin O'Neal Miller

Starring: Sarah Blackman, Josh Warren, Jason MacDonald, Muretta Moss, Kristen Shawn, Kurt Yue

Year: 2018

Runtime: 12 minutes

Country: US


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