By Michael Gamarano Singleton | Drama
A young man has trouble dating. So he creates an alter ego named 'Denzel'...

A young man has trouble navigating the sometimes rocky, challenging waters of the dating scene. Finding it socially challenging, he creates an alter ego he calls Denzel to help him muster the confidence to meet and take women out, in the hopes of finding love and connection.

Denzel is smooth, confident and self-assured. But despite all his strengths, he still has trouble meeting women and finding love. After some unfortunate dates, the hopeful young man learns the limitations of his alter ego, and must learn instead to accept and embrace who he truly is.

Written and directed by Michael Gamarano Singleton, this short romantic drama is both an exploration of the sleight-of-hand we sometimes have to play with ourselves and others to find a date, as well as a portrait of a young man learning to embrace his authentic self. Told with great sensitivity and emotional intimacy, viewers are allowed access to its main character's deepest insecurities and vulnerabilities, especially as he comes to face them himself.

The film opens with an attractive if awkward pair seated at dinner. Daniel is uncomfortable, and quietly pages through notecards of questions and social cues he can "practice" with his date. Excusing himself to go to the bathroom, he psyches himself up by reminding himself of a piece of advice -- to remember his alter ego, Denzel, which infuses him with enough self-confidence to sally forth once again. The date is still a wash, but as Denzel, Daniel is up for anything.

The storytelling percolates nicely, showing Daniel/Denzel still trying to find his bearings in a sometimes confusing dating scene. The intimate, naturalistic camera keeps the focus on the main character as he works through his travails and insecurities. It toggles between the events of the story and Daniel's emotional journey, capturing the small details that reveal his quirks and character. Actor Karl Queensborough ably traverses both the confident Denzel side of his character, as well as the more insecure, shy Daniel. As Daniel struggles, he finds that Denzel may give him a momentary boost, but the alter ego isn't enough to compensate for his deep self-doubt. That can only be conquered, with the support of his loved ones, with his reflection and determination.

Charming, warm and compassionate, "Denzel" winds down to its conclusion with a telling reveal, one that deepens our own perception and understanding of Daniel and his struggles. This reveal adds an element of surprise (and gently points out how we see one another as just our alter egos sometimes.) But it also radically challenges the norms of the romance genre, expanding our ideas of who is worthy of love stories and reminding us that we all face fear and doubt when it comes to our innate worth and lovability. We all have baggage to unload, whether it's our inner fears of inadequacy or suffering. But we are all worthy of loving and being loved and deserve to fight for it in our pursuits of happiness.

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