By Yonatan Weinstein | Drama
When a vaccine is denied permission for human trials, a young scientist will do whatever it takes to prove its efficacy.

Dr. Adam Leecher is a brilliant scientist and doctor, working on an ambitious vaccine against an unnamed parasite, which affects women’s ability to conceive and carry children.

He is also a husband, confronting fertility issues with his wife Rose. Their latest treatment has failed, and their doctor advises them to consider other options to create a family.

To add to his load, the vaccine he’s been working on has been denied permission for human trials, despite his stellar research and experimentation so far. Angry and upset — and facing the prospect of throwing away years of work — he will do whatever it takes to prove that it works.

Writer-director Yonatan Weinstein has fashioned a character-driven sci-fi drama that examines the corrosive effects of thwarted ambition, as well as the toll that infertility can take on a couple. By intertwining these two emotional needs together, the story is a portrait of how both a burning desire for a particular outcome and the inability to accept anything less can combine, leading to calamitous effects.

Unlike many sci-fi shorts, there aren’t any dazzling special effects or intricate world-building — the technology that the film pivots upon is within the realm of today’s world, though that world seems to be grappling with some kind of new virus or infection.

Instead, the writing and craftsmanship focuses on the human drama, particularly between Adam and Rose. The crisp, clean cinematography and the sensitive camerawork are attuned to the emotional undertow of their characters, with each beat charted with care. And effective, subtle performances by lead actors Richard Stables and Adi Ezroni make it easy for audiences to believe in this couple’s connection and love for one another, even as they both grapple with the idea that they may not be able to start a family in a biologically traditional way.

They oscillate between resignation, anger and sadness as their hopes are first dashed. But when those hopes are then perilously raised, it’s also not hard to root for them, or at least understand why they are driven to their decision — even if its consequences are almost guaranteed to be calamitous.

The story ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, and in some ways, it feels almost as if it’s the beginning of a feature instead of the end of a short. The arc of the couple has definitely shifted, though it lands them on the edge of a new, unseen precipice by film’s end. True to the film’s design, the story is less about the technology itself, but more about the ways human drives can warp technology. The true viruses in “Leecher” aren’t necessarily the ones in our bodies, but the ambition and needs that drive us to extreme, often catastrophic decisions.

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