Rebecca Kahn and Abhishek Prasad‘s UPLIFT wonderfully illustrates just how terrifying grief and depression are. Mental illness is a taboo topic; we are seldom if ever, shown just how dark they can be. Instead, films often try to soften the intensity of these illnesses.

The intensity of one man’s grief unfolds in just under 11 minutes. We meet Eli, the film’s primary character, in his young son’s bed. Eli’s physical space is an indication that he’s given up (son’s room, kitchen, and living room). He’s even worn the same pair of pajamas throughout the film.

He’s withdrawn from the world. We don’t know if it’s because he can’t bear to face the world or to face the reality of looking out (literally) and being constantly reminded of things he’s lost – his child, hearing his son’s laughter, watching his son grow and play. Aside from his brief and uncomfortable interactions with a store clerk and neighbor, Eli is alone. These were all authentic exemplification of what depression looks like. But, to be honest, that wasn’t scary. Being shown what it feels like was.

Eli catches a news story about a man who tied himself to balloons as soon as he turns on his TV. One would think that it was pure coincidence; however, the balloon light fixture in his son’s room signified that balloons were symbolic. Eli is inspired after watching this story; viewers see a change in his disposition. This is where the terror comes in. To be clear, seeing him smile, laugh, and dance to music wasn’t terrifying. Neither was seeing him appear to be free (even temporarily) from the mental burdens of grief and despair. The underlying cause of his newfound liberation and joy was.

There were some unanswered questions which, honestly, were too real. They’re the questions that are often thrown around after-the-fact to explore if and how a situation could’ve been avoided. These questions came from Kahn and Prasad’s authentic depiction of mental illness.

Final Thoughts: UPLIFT is a horror film that, at first, will have you questioning whether it was correctly categorized. But make no mistake about it, it’s definitely horror – it evokes fear, there are elements of shock, and there’s [his son’s] death. Films don’t have to be long to be captivating or thought-provoking. UPLIFT was both of those things in roughly 10 minutes. The short is now available to watch on or by clicking on the YouTube link below.

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