Robert is an ailing widower living alone. He also has Parkinson’s disease, which makes doing anything around the house a challenge.
His grandchild Bec comes to the rescue, bringing a pot muffin to help with Robert’s tremors. But the effects won’t kick in for a little bit, and the mismatched pair hang out and spend time together until it does, coming to an understanding and appreciation of one another despite their differences.
Written and directed by Nathaniel Katzman, this dry, warmhearted multi-generational comedic short can be framed as both a family comedy and stoner humor, told with unflashy visual sophistication, deep trust in its characters and performers and a delight in humanity’s great diversity.
While many comedies lean on writing and performance to generate the rhythm, set-ups and pay-offs of the humor, the visual style plays a role in setting up the tone and characters to create more wryly subtle laughs. The richly detailed production design, which is full of quirky detail, contains a wealth of information about Robert, including his faith, his family and his generation.
The camera and editing take a more observational approach, encouraging us to exist in Robert’s world, but also observe the differences between grandfather and grandkid. This approach also allows viewers to adapt to the pace of the characters as they embark on their little adventure together. Their dialogue together is less a conversation and more a series of shared moments: listening to talk radio, playing cards, ordering food.
There’s a subtle disconnect and clear differences in values and perspective between the pair, but there’s also a slow acceptance of these differences. Actors George Wyner and Petey C. Gibson play Robert and Bec, respectively, and have a terrific rapport as performers, accentuating their differences without overstating them. Robert is on the irascible side and a traditionalist; Bec is tech-savvy and modern. But as they wait for the muffin to kick in, they learn to live with these differences and even perhaps enjoy them.
Quietly delightful, quirky and warmly affectionate, “Start With Half” isn’t very long, but its characters traverse a great distance in that short duration, coming together in a way that feels both authentic to who they are but also genuinely sweet in emotion. By giving each other space and a bemused acceptance, this pair come to surprise one another, and eventually deeply appreciate each other as family and fellow human beings.