Children are our route to immortality. If we can’t live forever ourselves, then perhaps our genetic code can. The pursuit for immortality however, does not come without a cost. With creation there must also be destruction. A parent dies, a child lives.
This philosophical conundrum is explored adeptly in JOE & MARY’S KID, a charming and affecting short film written and directed by Dan Rosen. Joe and Mary cannot have children so Joe builds one, a mechanical one, to compensate. Consider the paradox at work here: Joe and Mary cannot create a child biologically but they can create a fake stand-in. Creation vs creation. Children are genetic remixes of our own organic matter, robots are mechanical remixes made up of other parts. This child, Izac, is for all purposes completely real to Joe, less real to Mary. Joe’s priorities centre around Izac while Mary’s are more concerned with maintaining her relationships with other people. She attempts to seduce Joe, he resists. From a purely biological perspective, the end goal of any romantic relationship should be the children, but this fails to account for the entire scope of the human experience.
Mary of course tries to accept Izac into her life but the child’s mechanical voice and automatic responses fail to trigger any sympathy in her. Her warmest moments with the robot are watching him from afar, distancing herself from any real connection. Replace Izac with any human child and little has changed: at a distance, we’re all just robots to each other, it is only when we are willing to get up close and personal that we recognize our humanity. When Izac falls apart, it is Joe who attends to him, while Mary is more concerned with the dog. Here is another contrast between life and non-life, mother and father, woman and man.
The short film’s most profound moment is its dealing with destruction. Mary’s weapon of sabotage is milk, the giver of nutrition and well-being and a symbol of femininity, while Joe’s is pure, unbridled violence. Once again the relationship between opposites is clearly demonstrated.
It is only by destroying the mechanical with the essence of life that Mary can restore her marriage and bring Joe back from his brink of despair. In the beginning, Joe brought life into the world, but all was not good. In the end, Mary destroys the non-living “life” that Joe created and all is well again. The symbolism recalls Biblical metaphors and fits well with any paradox of equation. Yin and yang, male and female, good and evil, whatever you may have here.
The path to immortality then, lies not in creation but in life itself. Izak ultimately serves as a reminder to both Joe and Mary of their relationship, of all the good things worth having and remembering. Their happiest moments were holding each other dearly and living their lives without fear of what may happen when the lights go down. Funny how it sometimes takes a materialistic thing to make the nonmaterialistic matter.
JOE & MARY’S KID is a poignant short film, confidently shot, employing symbolism to achieve meaning many directors struggle to spell out explicitly. All I usually ask for in a fifteen minute video is something to, well, entertain me enough to make me forget that I spent a whole quarter-hour watching it. This short film gives far more than that. It is interesting enough as a curious story of mechanical wonders, but it has something to say and to contribute to the canon of human pondering that drives all storytelling.
Watch JOE & MARY’S KID below:
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