Movie Review – In a Heartbeat (Animated Short Film)
On Monday, July 31, Beth David and Esteban Bravo, two graduates from Ringling College of Art and Design published this animated short film on YouTube. By Friday, August 4, it had accumulated over 16 million views. The viral video took the Internet by storm, resulting in many celebrities praising it and outlets like The New York Times writing articles about it. It’s reportedly one of the finalists for the Student Academy Awards and some have speculated it could go on to compete for Best Animated Short at the 90th Oscars. Most are praising the film for its representation of two boys seemingly falling in love. Whether or not the two boys are gay is never explicit, as it is implied. Some might argue it’s heavily implied, but it’s lacking in one crucial detail that would solidify their homosexuality. The two boys never kiss.
Back in March, according to the Huffington Post, the right-wing watchdog group, One Million Moms released a statement in protest of a same-sex kiss between two boys in the animated series Star vs. the Forces of Evil on the Disney Channel. This comes after the Cartoon Network in 2014 rejected an attempt to depict a same-sex kiss between two boys on the animated series Clarence. The depiction of gay characters isn’t new. Nickelodeon’s The Loud House depicted two gay men as fathers whom we see hug but never kiss. The problem is that kissing between boys appears to be the threshold or line for what’s acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to animated entertainment that is seemingly available or even targeted toward children or minors of any kind. Obviously, there have been R-rated animated films like Sausage Party or even TV-MA rated series like South Park that have pushed or stepped over that line, but those properties are clearly targeted toward adults.
Back in March of 2015, ABC Family had a same-sex kiss between two boys in the episode “Now Hear This” on The Fosters. It wasn’t between two animated characters. It was between two, young male actors. The boys were only about 12 or 13. It was history-making because it was the youngest, same-sex kiss between two boys ever broadcast on TV. It was a monumental step forward. It presumably paved the way for more depictions of same-sex attraction between young people, particularly boys because historically and statistically the image of boys and especially men kissing bothers people more. The incident of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend on ESPN back in 2014 is a prime example.
David and Bravo don’t do much here with that monumental step forward. If anything, this film is a regression. We don’t see the boys kiss. There is a timidity in that, which makes this film not as brave or bold as it could have been. It’s rather tame. It doesn’t have the courage of even basic cable. Without the kiss, everything seen here can be perceived as Platonic love, what’s known modernly as a bromance.
The film has no dialogue. Some of the context can be found in the Kickstarter description. Sherwin is the redhead. Jonathan is the brunette. They’re both probably 11 or 12. The entire film is about the walk to school, the path from the gate down to the front door. Sherwin hides from Jonathan in the trees and bushes. Jonathan is too busy reading his book and tossing an apple to notice, but then as if out a Myrbetiq commercial, Sherwin’s heart pops out his chest and is drawn like a magnet or a puppy to Jonathan. The majority of the film is Sherwin trying to pry his heart back as to not let the rest of school realize his love for Jonathan.
The final shot is the two boys sitting under a tree, a fade to black and then both of their hearts merge together. Yet, without a kiss, which many see as an intimate act, there is no distinction from true romantic or even lustful desire, and Platonic love, which can be just as deeply heartfelt as any marriage. Yes, two heterosexual men can love each other in deep and profound ways.
In movies, the type of bromance or Platonic love between two straight men run through various genres. There are films like I Love You, Man (2009), Brian’s Song (1971), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Midnight Cowboy (1969), The Fisher King (1991), Toy Story (1995) and The Defiant Ones (1958). In many of these films, often the two straight men will start out at odds but by the end, they pursue or chase after each other for various reasons, but all to underscore a version of love that might not be sexual but still just as strong. Without the kiss, this animated short can’t be distinguished from those, which is a shame.
Not Rated but for all audiences.
Running Time: 4 mins.
Available on YouTube.