By Michael Junior Onafowokan | Drama
A young man falls into a deep depression after losing a close friend to a gang conflict.

Dave has recently lost a close friend Lucas to a gang conflict. Overcome by grief and guilt, he has withdrawn from his family and friends and is falling into a deep depression.

But as he contemplates ending his own life, memories of his friendship with Lucas surface, full of happy memories and honest conversations. But he also reckons with the more difficult memories and must come to terms with the past.

Written and directed by Michael Junior Onafowokan, this heartfelt short drama explores the emotional landscape of a young Black man, riven with grief and pain that he can't share with others. Bottled up, it proves too much, pushing Dave to the edge of self-destruction.

The storytelling operates in a poetic register of emotion and memory, weaving in flashbacks whose warmth and amiability capture the trust and affection between Dave and Lucas. It's a warm, even tender portrait of friendship, unfurling with a sense of visual naturalism and intimate handheld camerawork.

But it also co-exists with memories of conflict, such as when Dave tries to stop Lucas from retaliating after a fight with a rival gang. The writing doesn't focus on the violence; it instead draws its dramatic tension from Dave's attempts to set his friend right, and his resulting agony when Lucas dies. He blames himself and is helpless in his guilt. The visuals also shift into a more impressionistic, emotional register, almost as if reflecting Dave's disintegrating inner world.

Actor Faisal Dacosta's performance ably traverses the range of emotions that Dave must navigate throughout the film, particularly as he descends into depression and grief. But at a key juncture, those memories coalesce into a pristine memory of Dave and Lucas at their most honest, open and caring -- the power of which pulls Dave back from the brink.

The key insight of "Pods" is in its final epitaph: suicide doesn't stop the pain, only moves it. Unchecked and unacknowledged suffering can isolate us, which only compounds the original grief and trauma. We can't erase the pain or ignore it, as Dave comes to learn. Instead, he learns the power of putting it into words and honoring the full sweep of our emotions, story and relationships as we do so. Through this profound act of expression, we can find hope and meaning again, even after heartbreaking loss.

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