Review: My Year of Dicks
Hilarious and genre-mashing, an imaginative fifteen-year-old is stubbornly determined to lose her virginity despite the pathetic pickings in the outskirts of Houston in the early 90’s. This charming, animated, retro-romantic-comedy pulls no punches with its female-forward look at sexual awakening.
It is a tall order indeed to itemise all of the ways in which this comedic, creatively awe-inspiring animated short realises the potential of all of the mediums and genres that it straddles. The premise harkens back to the teen rom-coms of the early noughties, making the simple yet impactful change of focusing on the female quest for sexual liberation rather than the male quest for sexual conquest.
Within that simple change, director Sara Gunnarsdóttir takes a deep dive into all of the visually abstract representations of an emotionally complex journey. Her exploration of Pamela Ribon’s memoir unlocks sexual and emotional discoveries and perspectives that manifest in mesmerising and hypnotic visuals, which are somehow used to both enlightening and hilarious effect. While Gunnarsdóttir and the films animators refuse to hold back stylistically, we are kept grounded by a straightforward narrative, made relatable in no small part due to the voice performance of Brie Tilton as Pam, the film’s protagonist. Tilton’s ability to flawlessly balance determined with confused or to convey total focus amid a flurry of high-speed thoughts and internal conflict not only opens the door to an extensive range of visually stylistic possibilities but also forms the basis of much of the film’s comedy.
Broken up into five chapters, we are able to chart Pam’s changing perspectives and burgeoning maturity as the lens through which she experiences each of these fatally flawed encounters shifts from horror-erotica to French romance to anime and beyond. An often-used method over the course of the film is employing each extreme style as a gateway to Pam’s fantasies then hard cutting back to the real world at precisely the right (or wrong) moment. Where in many cases, this may have become repetitive, Gunnarsdóttir knows just how to deploy this method, evoking a different effect each time. The pacing, editing and storytelling method employed throughout the film deftly serves theme and character, punctuating plot points and character turning points to maximum effect.
The films artistic flourishes are not employed for the sake of form alone but also crucial function. Coming-of-age stories that lean into themes of self-discovery are nothing if not exercises in perspective. This is a film encapsulates what that truly means. Not only is it an in-depth exploration of Pam’s emotional journey, it also shares perspectives on masculinity as well as male vulnerability. A wonderful job is done making the film both narratively simple and thematically complex. The immersive nature of this introspective story gives the audience a lot to sink their teeth into, at times placing us squarely in moments of Pam’s empowerment and others sending us headlong into her mistakes.
Making Pam flawed makes her all the more sympathetic and the perfect vehicle through which to experience the emotional whiplash of putting equally flawed people on pedestals only to realise they are as clueless or as lost as we are. The maze of youth is almost magically encapsulated in this intensely funny, often uncomfortable, and always immersive short animation. It is the kind of film that you can watch over and over again and be wowed at the sheer level of detail, nuance and artistic precision that delivers every line, gesture, transition and laugh for a near perfect short film experience.
Studio: Cat's Pyjamas/Wonder Killer | Year: 2022 | Genre: Animation/Comedy?Romance | Duration: 26 Mins | Suitability: Mature (Strong sexual content)
Cast: Brie Tilton, Jackson Kelly, Chris Kelman, Laura House, Klarissa Hernandez
Director: Sara Gunnarsdóttir | Producers: Jeanette Jeanenne, Pamela Ribon, Sara Gunnarsdóttir | Writer: Pamela Ribon