Big Ears

By Sam Baron | Drama
A struggling actor discovers a lump on his testicle, then must confront his life choices.

Kaan is a struggling actor who's hit a rough patch in his life on many fronts. He works more as a barista than an actor, and he has a crush on his co-worker and fellow aspiring actor Zoe, but she seems to have found someone else. But then he gets a piece of news that is even worse: his doctor has found cancer in his testicles.

The news hits him hard, but he finds it hard to tell others, including his own family. But when an old friend stops by with his own news, he finally begins facing his own choices in life.

Written and directed by Sam Baron, this deeply moving short drama captures a man struggling to come to terms with his mortality, as he faces a cancer diagnosis. Brought to life with gently somber cinematography and camerawork, the writing has the intelligence to make Kaan's difficulty in sharing the news the spine of the narrative, contrasting it -- often comically -- with Kaan's own agreeableness when people share their own news with him. Yet Kaan keeps his own news inside, not wanting to make others uncomfortable, but making him feel sad and isolated as a result.

The excellent storytelling builds these moments one-by-one, as Kaan hides his truth from his family, from Zoe and then from a fellow actor friend, who stops by with some news of his own. But his friend's outrageously good news only highlights Kaan's struggles in life and career, sparking an internal battle within him. Does he listen agreeably and keep his own feelings under wraps? The internal struggle forms the heart of the film's turning point scene, blending the gently tragicomic with a bittersweet edge and gesturing at the ludicrousness of life, where sadness and hilarity often juxtapose against one another in unexpected ways.

Lead actor Amit Shah's achingly tender performance truly becomes superb here, balancing the heartwrenching with the gently funny, as Kaan decides he can no longer stay silent. Kaan doesn't know if he'll live or die; he doesn't know why he hasn't succeeded in his career where others have; he doesn't know whether or not Zoe sees him as just a friend or possibly more. The uncertainty of life has kept him silent and accommodating. But when faced the biggest uncertainty of all, he realizes his "playing small" hasn't protected him at all.

Genuinely affecting, heartwarming and compelling, "Big Ears" is about a piercing moment of clarity in one man's life, where the game changes and the stakes shift. Anchored by Amit Shah's quiet marvel of a performance, the narrative isn't just about confronting one's mortality, but also about asking one's self what it means to truly live. It means embracing ourselves, flaws and all, and honoring the pull of our desires, even if we don't know if they'll be fulfilled. It's the effort and journey that makes us feel fully alive. We don't know how Kaan will fare or if he'll win his co-worker over, but the film ends with a sense of triumph anyway, where honesty and authenticity prevails despite ourselves.

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