We can’t deny that stranger things have happened than someone becoming a stranger out of the blue. But what if that someone is your own child? What if your daughter is no longer a part of you, even if her eyes have an identical hue to yours? The same green, the same brown, there’s nothing to it but simple reflection of light.
Upon reflection, Max Walker-Silverman’s Lefty/Righty has a lot to say, but it does so with a beautiful simplicity. We take a long (albeit a few minutes long) look at the American West of today by witnessing a man, Righty (Lewis Pullman), struggling with the reality of his father’s imminent passing, and his inability to connect with his daughter, Lefty (Marty Grace Dennis).
With an inevitable tragedy right around the corner, things are put into perspective, and therefore as one relationship is about to end, another needs to be rekindled. As a typical protagonist of a Western, Righty rides on a horse through a rural setting with country music giving him the beat. With a slow and steady pace and with a barely floating “get well soon” silver balloon, he is about to visit his father, possibly for the very last time with Lefty by his side. It’s no secret that the father and daughter are estranged; we can see it even on the superficial level of their names. The binary left/right connotes the fact that they are on different life paths that no longer converge. This alienation is also demonstrated through the persistent silence between the two lead characters when they are left on their own, until Righty suggests that they “go see the tallest mountain in the state.”
This return to nature, with the silver balloon in hand, is the first step for healing. It not only reconnects Lefty and Righty, but it is also the basis of the bond that Lefty establishes with her uncles. It is then, on the final shot that we see the message loud and clear: the silver balloon has been tied on the spot that looks over to “the tallest mountain in the state;” it symbolizes the story’s silver lining, namely the rejuvenated relationship between Lefty and Righty. As the director Max Walker-Silverman has stated “such is the power of the [West]: we dress it—as have generations—in illusions. We love the soil and forget that fact that amongst rock and water are drops of blood. Lefty/Righty is a search of tenderness in dry land,” and the end product is definitely an accurate depiction of that aforementioned power.
It is in these small gestures that the film thrives, but we can also focus on the performances of Lewis Pullman and Marty Grace Dennis. Pullman keeps a perfect balance between calm pretense and tiny breaks of despair. Dennis has almost no dialogue, but communicates kindness and innocence with each one of her facial expressions.
Overall, Lefty/Righty might not be the typical western short film, but it uses several conventions of the genre to convey a simple and pure message: love and tenderness are vital to our well-being; it only takes a few silent moments to change someone’s life.