Tortoise

By Stephen Cervantes | Comedy
A young man's broken masculinity is exposed by a talking tortoise.

Dennis is a young man who lives out in the middle of the desert and spends most of his time bowling. But one day, on his way to the alley, he nearly runs over a tortoise in the road.

He takes up with the tortoise, bringing it with him his bowling games and marveling when he realizes the turtle can talk back to him. But with his ability to communicate, the tortoise begins to exert a negative influence over Dennis, endangering his friendships and possibly his own life.

Writer-director Stephen Cervantes has fashioned an offbeat dramedy about a uniquely shambolic search for self, and the ways it can go awry, even with the best of intentions.

The film has the eccentricity of a kinder, gentler Coen Brothers film -- or even a more laidback take on a Jim Carrey comedy from the 90s -- and its storytelling ambles from oddball moment to the next, sometimes luxuriating in its strangeness or even just the striking desert landscape, all captured with sun-bleached, careworn cinematography.

But this isn't just a showpiece for surreality. The story is married to Dennis's emotional journey, which is essentially the surfacing of a character's fragile lack of autonomy and agency in his world, and his toxic attempts to regain it through aggression and dominance.

The tortoise, of course, is a symbol of Dennis's inner voice -- or most venomous impulses -- come to life, and the comedic device is handled both with goofiness and surprising sincerity. When Dennis loses access to his inner voice, it's a genuine tragedy for him -- and yet another way his life has gone wrong. How he deals with this loss -- and the surprisingly fount of support that reveals itself -- is both genuine and wryly touching.

Like most comedies, "Tortoise" wants to be entertaining and seemingly silly in an effort to garner laughs. But in a world where it's sometimes hard to be a better person, the film has genuine things to say about delusion and self-actualization -- though you'll never quite look at a reptile or amphibian in quite the same way again.




You Might Also Like:

Iniquity

By Oliver Goodrum | Drama
A man who bullied a disabled girl tries to escape his past. Then an angry mob finds him.

Pony

By Candice Carella | Drama
A single mother leaves her young daughter with a rock musician uncle.

Sylvia

By Richard Prendergast | Drama
A single mother takes her family on a road trip. But it's to an unwanted destination.

Second Best

By Alyssa McClelland | Comedy
Twin sisters turn into rivals when one's gymnastics career steals the spotlight.

No More Wings

By Abraham Adeyemi | Drama
2 friends meet at their favorite fried chicken shop. But their lives have diverged.

Avarya

By Gokalp Gonen | Animation
A man is trapped on a spaceship after his robot overseer finds every planet uninhabitable.

Feeling Through (Oscars)

By Doug Roland | Drama
A homeless teen meets a deaf-blind man who changes his life forever...

Ernie

By Hadley Hillel | Drama
A man's suicide attempt rips a hole in the ceiling. Then he befriends the boy upstairs.

Dig Your Own Grave

By Kirk Larsen | Comedy
A man is forced to dig his own grave in the desert. But the ground is hard.

Call Connect

By Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell | Drama
A young helpline operator takes her first call and gets more than she expected.

More Than God

By Kev Cahill | Comedy
A devoted husband suspects his wife is cheating on him. Then he hides under the bed.

Welcome to Iron Knob

By Dave Wade | Comedy
A young boy accidentally shoots a stranger and the town tries to cover it up.

CODA

By Erika Davis-Marsh | Romance
A young dancer falls for a deaf guy, then tries to find her place in the world.

Toni With an I

By Marco Alessi | Drama
An awkward girl doesn't fit in at school. Then the Internet comes to save her.

The Things You Think I'm Thinking

By Sherren Lee | Drama
A burn-survivor goes on his first date after his accident.



Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening.
That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady
stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.