To think of cancer as anything but a crippling and deadly disease that kills more people in the US than the entire population of Luxembourg is, well, just wrong. The life of a cancer patient is not a happy one, and cases like Michael Douglas’s triumphant defeat of the dreaded infliction are far and few. We all live in fear — and rightfully so.
All, that is, besides David, or so he would like us to think.
Wish 143, directed by Ian Barnes, stars Samuel Holland as David, a fifteen year old boy diagnosed with cancer that has a wish far less noble than one expects from a boy in his position — to lose his virginity.
The plot line is almost a mockery — if placed in the wrong hands, it can easily become a teen comedy that mocks the protagonist’s attempt to come-of-age rather than encourage it; however, Holland treats the character with a maturity that extends far beyond his years.
That’s not to say, however, that the film does not have moments of comic relief. While the film’s genie, a member of the British version of the Make a Wish Foundation, suggests that David would be better off meeting Gary Neville, or, perhaps, going to a film premiere, the boy insists on having sex with a naked woman — preferably on the hood of the car. His attempts to find a willing woman are valiant yet also hint at desperation that not only brings the laughs, but tears as well.
What sets this twenty three minute gem apart from the other Oscar contenders is that instead of using a younger protagonist to portray the fickleness of emotions at such a tender age, like rivals The Confession and The Crush, David is shown to be so sure of his actions and desires, and is every inch an adult in a situation where it is absolutely okay to be a child. He does not falter from what he believes is right — in this case, getting laid.
What ultimately won me over (and unfortunately, not the Oscar voters) was when David was finally given the choice to fulfill his wish with Maggie, a prostitute his father recommended. Instead of leaning toward the kiss and touch of actress Jodie Whittaker, David leans away from her, and in a rare moment of intimacy, he whispers:
“Just hold me.”
It was with this line that the film took a turn from being a dark comedy to the most touching and most revealing short films this reviewer has seen.
Wish 143 holds nothing back, and between each giggle and tear, formed an inseparable bond between viewer and character, one that forces us to find the David inside each one of us — flawed, chasing after unlikely goals, and, most importantly, hungry for a friend.