“I’ve been putting it off for so long, it’s almost funny how easy that was.”
“Yeah, I know, right? You think in the back of your head it’s gonna be this intense thing and it’s literally like 15 seconds.”
“Nobody tells you that.”
Part work of ethereal realism, part dance film, the twelve-minute short Writhing follows a young man facing the probability of a positive HIV diagnosis. Writer-director Robert John Torres (who also co-stars as a supportive clinic counselor) takes us through the process. While the film doesn’t provide any easy answers, it does offer a great deal of compassion.
Everett (Reed Alvarado), a young gay man, is “pretty certain” that he has contracted HIV. However, he has been mentally and emotionally unwilling to bring himself in for testing. Finally working up the courage, he confesses his fear to a friend (Elizabeth B. Bates). He wants to go alone, finally ready to face the truth.
Torres has a wide variety of visual tricks up his sleeve, perfectly deployed the convey Everett’s uneasy emotions. Vape smoke frequently crowds the frame, standing as a metaphor for the lead character’s hazy uncertainty. There’s also a man (Keanu Uchida), credited as “humanoid figure” who gives meaning to the film’s title. Clad in a leather harness with pink skin, he dances, contorts and literally writhes on Everett’s bed in a perpetual state of unrest. His presence creates a strange juxtaposition with the seemingly ordinary West Coast suburban neighborhood we see out the window.
Clearly, not everything is alright with Everett at this moment… but it will be again (regardless of the results of his test).