Not having read the description of this film beforehand slightly altered my take on this short film from writer, director Justin Lombardi. The truth is that I rarely read descriptions until after reviewing a movie - and the reason for that is simple. I don't want the filmmaker to spell out the story for me literally - I want them to show me. However, with that written, even though my views on what was happening were a little different from what Lombardi was going for - the big plot points were pretty much interchangeable. I may have mistaken the finer details of the plot, but the message and ideals presented remained pretty much the same either way. This is a film about death on the surface, but the real message, for me, is one of grief and the acceptance of grief. And the chosen allegory for death, or impending death, in general, worked like a charm.
Here's what I got from the film before reading the description. Dean has recently lost a friend to suicide, and not long after, due to grief, he has also decided to end things. But his mother managed to call help quickly, and "Descend" chronicles Dean's inner struggle to give in and die, or decide to fight... and live. His inner self has concocted first a space shuttle of sorts, followed by time spent in a sort of limbo, where he meets up with his former friend. In the actual world meantime, the fight to keep him alive continues.
After then reading the synopsis, I managed to piece together that pretty much everything storywise was the same, except that Dean did not attempt suicide and was, in fact, getting experimental surgery done. Here's the cool thing... Dean's inner struggle, the way it's presented, works either way. So although I didn't quite grasp the plot at first, the story worked nonetheless. As for my thoughts on how the film plays out? I liked it. The struggle feels real, and at the same time, there was enough drama to keep me interested. I won't get into the film's final act, and what happens to Dean and his family (Mother) because honestly? You should check it out for yourself.
As far as technical elements go, especially for a micro-budget DIY flick, "Descend" is pretty darn cool. It's put together nicely, manages to entertain the viewer, and honestly? I loved the spaceman suite. Don't get me wrong. Lombardi's film probably won't be easily mistaken for a hundred million dollar production - but that's because it isn't one. At the same time, there are a few segments that easily blur the line, and at points, this short film looks fantastic. The only thing I didn't quite understand was why the computer voice sounded so... computer-ish? My Blackberry phone from 2012 had a more human-sounding voice. I see this a lot in indie movies - a modern sentient computer with a voice from the '80s. Jokes aside, there's not a lot else to complain about save my inability to grasp the exact plot without reading the description first.
When it's all said and done, I was more than a little impressed with this film. Even though a little confused, I still managed to grasp the larger themes at play, and it definitely doesn't hurt that this film looks and sounds pretty good. Justin Lombardi and his troupe aim for something a little deeper than your average short story and manage to pull it off quite nicely. A solid three stars.