He Could've Gone Pro

By McGhee Monteith | Drama
A woman and her mother confront the truth about their family's past.

Gayle is the middle-aged matriarch of a Southern family, calling each member of her clan on Christmas. She's keen on maintaining connection, even if the family members are far away, going through her list and beginning each call with a "Happy ho ho ho."

But then her daughter Debbie arrives for Christmas with her boyfriend, initially to collect her gift money, despite a lingering anger at her mother. But Debbie refuses to comply with Gayle's attempts at normalcy, eventually rupturing Gayle's illusion of familial bliss and forcing Gayle to confront their troubled past as a family.

Writer-director McGhee Monteith's powerful short drama is an incisive yet sensitively observed study in dysfunctional family dynamics, with an exceptionally well-observed script and a strong set of performances all around from the small cast of actors.

Essentially a chamber piece and a dinner scene, Monteith's story ably takes this one event in a family's history and examines it with forensic precision, observing with clarity how family dysfunction perpetuates itself, as a toxic sense of denial chafes against years of powerlessness and pain.

The quiet camerawork often emphasizes the isolation and distance that Debbie feels from Gayle, with framings that often forgo harmony and balance. The direction is attuned to the bitter aversions and suppressions that happen when families don't deal with the traumas and troubles of the past, and the performances are all around strong, able to encapsulate years of suppressed trauma into one family meal.

But eventually the resentment, anger and hurt builds, and any carefully maintained facade will crack, especially when it's at the expense of others. And when it does for Debbie, she unleashes torrents of anger, resentment and grief upon her mother that levels any illusion Gayle may have of raising a good family. The resulting pain and agony, held back for years, is devastating to watch and hear, but its expression will be highly relatable to anyone who's struggled to speak their truth in a situation bent on smothering any authenticity or honesty.

"He Could've Gone Pro" is emotionally intense, and unflinching in its portrayal of the sometimes corrosive influence families can have on each other. In the end, it also becomes a powerfully ironic portrait of just how entrenched denial can be, and how a refusal to look at the truth of a situation -- and dig deep into a sense of responsibility for one's part in it -- can cost someone the very thing they want more than anything else.

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