Tia is in love with her boyfriend. There’s one problem, however: Travis is a devout vegan, and Tia is secretly a meat lover from a family of enthusiastic meat lovers.
But when Travis presses the issue of meeting her family, Tia finally invites him over for dinner. But doing so may potentially reveal her dark, secret truth, and derail an affectionate and promising relationship.
Director Joshua Dang and writer Felicity Pickering have crafted a nimble short comedy that is both a charming romance and a comedy of manners, especially in an era where lifestyle choices like diet are conflated with identity. It pokes fun at the growing chasms between different diet choices and the discourses that have sprung up around food, with both a warm understanding and indulgence for human foibles and vulnerability and an eye for gentle social satire.
The production begins a heightened sunlit quality and glossiness in the cinematography that takes its cues from breezy romantic comedies, featuring affluent characters living in urbane settings in adorably decorated apartments. But then it shifts into a more muted (though still polished) naturalistic look that shows Tia’s reality, which is still affluent and immersed in the lingua franca of social responsibility-cum-conspicuous consumption, complete with quinoa sushi and kombucha. There are other visual flights of fancy that take their cues from surreal horror, among other modes, but these bring Tia’s subjective emotions to life, gesturing at her anxieties, fears and fantasies.
The mix of visual approaches mirrors the different strands that structure the narrative. The arc is wrapped around Tia’s relatable fear of revealing her true, full self to her sweet, affectionate boyfriend, who may have a different set of values from her, and watching Tia navigate her dilemma is highly relatable and enjoyable to watch.
But tucked into that journey are sharp observations and clever moments of satire on the lifestyle and social identity we place around food. The storytelling clearly has a lot of fun skewering both sides of the meat/non-meat divide, though it never feels mean-spirited, thanks to smart and even-handed writing and performances. The actors, in particular, underplay the humor, even during the film’s reveries, and keep their pulses on the emotions between a couple navigating their first potential major obstacle — a roadblock that the film handles with an equally good-hearted but sharp lightness of touch and a bit of a wink as well.
In a blithe, breezy way, “Facon” acknowledges the complex role that food plays in human culture, history, community and self: it connects families, forms a point of mutual interest and experience during courtship and can an extension of values and identities. It is both a necessity that many go without, and a luxury elevated into art or totems of social identity. The film also has a keen intelligence in portraying how this complexity plays out, whether it’s in the trendiness of an eatery to a no-holds-barred reminder of the animal carcasses that our tidy little meats come from. These ideas intersect in a feather-light, witty way with how the stories of our lives play out, taking us in directions we don’t often expect or appetites we wouldn’t have imagined for ourselves.