Review: Squish (2020)

International Shorts

Courtesy of NIFFF

Whilst the title of Xavier Seron’s film would seem to promise straightforward genre thrills, Squish is an altogether more subtle and clever piece of work that manages to straddle the fine line between gross out comedy and satirical drama.

Tom is taking care of 5 year-old-son Sam while his husband is away on business. When a Tom realises that Sam will be late for a guitar a lesson, Tom bundles him out of the house and into the car without paying much attention. Lo and behold Tom has crushed something: and it’s not the neighbour’s cat. With Sam as his willing accomplice, Tom must get rid of the evidence. But will he be able to live with the guilt?

In many Squish is a savage take down of the smug ennui of the well-to-do middle class. Tom and family are the epitome of white, middle-class liberals with Tom writing a novel, living in a nice house and dealing with the usual array of ‘first world’ problem. When the inciting incident – Tom seemingly running over the neighbour’s young son – occurs it’s telling that his reaction is one of anger about how it would affect him.

The film plays this inherent selfishness for laughs and the subsequent clean-up scene is done with an equal gallows humour. A severed arm is pulled from under the wheel, Sam is squirted with blood and even as they bury the body both act unconcerned for the their victim and are more concerned with keeping their cozy lifestyles intact.

Aesthetically, the film plays with this well-to-do liberalism, all elegant black and white photography and judicious use of classical music on the soundtrack. This approach actually heightens the humour in the more gory moments and the juxtaposition works well.

But deep down there’s a much darker undertone. The final revelation of the film – which has been seeded throughout the rest of the short – provides a much more bitter aftertaste then the previous drips of humour would initially seem to suggest. But the emotional shift is well done, and it brings Western attitudes into the likes of race and immigration into sharp relief.

An immensely intelligent piece of work from Seron, Squish does provide some genuine dark laughs alongside a sideways look at modern attitudes.

Original title: Sprötch
Year: 2020
Runtime: 20
Country: Belgium
Language: French
Directed by: Xavier Seron
Cast: Jean Le Peltier, Martin Verset, Youri Dirkx, Elikia Bondekwe
Writer: Xavier Seron
Cinematography: Florian Berutti
Editor: Christophe Evrard