Being a fly on the wall has it's advantages. You get to see the way things really are - and not the paper thin version of life so many people claim to live within. As that fly, watching from some dark corner, you would see the good - the bad and of course... the ugly. I always fight off a chuckle when people banter on about how great their lives are. Or how expertly they deal with the messy aspects. We all know things can't always be perfect - yet we all play along as if we actually believe things are.
Raising an autistic child is no different. I know more than a few folks who claim it isn't that hard... that is until they feel the need for some fished up sympathy. From friends and family alike. At this stage they claim things are always unbearable... and then things calm down. At this point it's back to that conversation about how perfectly and expertly they, and their family manage. The difficult aspects again locked away within a closet of their choice. It's here that "Duke" really shines. It's here that for myself, "Duke" earns it's stars. It's realism and the story it tells.
This film doesn't shy away from the difficulties of raising a kid with autism. It doesn't sugar coat the story, by saying the presented family dynamic always works. "Duke" doesn't pretend that it's the world that doesn't get it. Thiago Dedalt and Dru Miller, who wrote this piece, remind us all that the truth is far more messy. That family life is hard... at times even near unbearable. At the end I did feel uplifted - much happier than when I started this film. Yet I did also ask one question. What would have happened to this particular family had Duke not managed to connect? This was no cake-walk, and by the looks of things onscreen... the results may not have been good. This is why "Duke" was so real and touching for me. The reality was not overshadowed by the fantasy. Since this film is based on a true story, that sudden injection of happiness made this movie all the better. Seeing the bad made everything that much sweeter. Life isn't a cakewalk for any parent. Definitely not for the parents of autistic individuals.
Simply put technically, "Duke" is a visually beautiful short film. Most of us usually throw around words like independent or low budget, as an excuse for minor or major technical issues within a production. A lot is usually forgiven if the story is good... but... "Duke" suffers none of these established hallmarks. It looks and plays great! One of those few indie flicks that bare no resemblance to independent productions. From production straight through to post, Thiago Dadalt directs a clear cut winner.
When it comes to discussing the acting? Robert Solomon and Piercey Dalton lead a fantastic troupe of very talented individuals. It comes down to this... when I can't even find anything negative to write about the supporting cast... well ladies and gents, that pretty much speaks for itself. "Duke" is the full package from script to screen.
Entertainment is a fickle thing. Who can really say why even elements of life that are less than stellar, can entertain so greatly? Perhaps it all comes down to empathy or even raw emotion. Whatever the cause, "Duke" not only has something to say... but does so in a way that will keep it's viewers watching. Nothing wrong with that at all. In my humble opinion, "Duke" isn't just awarded these stars... it has earned them. Four and a half out of five.