ACT OF GOD is a short film made by friends and co-directors Spencer Cook and Parker Smith. The pair met through friends and became roommates several years ago, their relationship eventually developed to where Parker became not only a caretaker but also a creative partner. This film explores their friendship and important issues that people with disabilities must face on a daily basis, while remaining comedic and introsective.
This short film is oftentimes humourous while still raising some important questions on the importance of disability awareness and what it truly means to be independent. We see most of the film through Stuart’s perspective (played by director/disability activist Spencer Cook) and his struggle to remain self-reliant while living with a disability that makes him incapable of even getting out of bed on his own. Stuart is determined to overcome his reliance on able bodied people, a symbol for this bid of independence is a $100 bill that he passes repeatedly on his way to work. Being confined to a wheelchair and unable to carry out the trivial task of bending over to pick up the money is understandably frustrating to him and symbolises his dissatisfaction to do even menial tasts on his own.
The monotony of Start’s life and his grim outlook are challenged by both his new caregiver Paul, (played by real life friend, caretaker, and writer/editor/co-director Parker Spencer) and a similarly disabled collegue at work named Steve (played by Steve Way). Steve is the catalyst of the film, who forces Stuart to question how his negative outlook is affecting both his own way of life and those around him. Stuart refuses to ask others for help, which is underscored in a pivotal scene where he drops his pen at work. While Stuart freezes in panic, Steve diffuses the tense situation by casually calling an able bodied coworker to help them pick up the pen. This exemplifies to both Stuart and the audience how people want to help each other when given the oppurtunity.
Another aspect of this short film that really stood out was was the high quality of sound and the ways it was used. The score for this film relies on crisp, clear audio that transports the audience into Stuart’s mindset. This auditory experience especially stands out when Stuart has his headphones in, bringing us into a luxurious sound state similar to ASMR. Stuart uses his headphones to block out the world and spends the majority of the film listening with cult-like fascination to a female podcaster’s ominous advice on self reliance. The voice, literally in his ear, encourages him to reject the world and remain distant from people, which as a physically disabiled man is impossible.
Ultimately this film challenges both able bodied, and disabled people to question their preconceptions of reliance on others and encourages us to try and see people’s lives through a different perspective. Stuart eventually overcomes his cynicism when he tumbles from his wheelchair in pursuit of the $100 bill that’s mockingly been just out of reach for the duration of his journey to self discovery. For the first time we see him call for help, and Paul arrives readily to assist him. The film ends on a light note, with them going in circles as Stuart tries to direct the other man with amusement to get the wheelchair down the hill. We see Stuart triumphantly clutching the hundred dollar bill, signifying his success over the toxic mentality of being incapable for asking for help, while still proving himself capable. An important lesson illustrated by this short film that we can all take to heart is that … if you need a helping hand, all you need to do is ask.