Patched

By Wibout Warnaar | Romance
A balding man is desperate for a girlfriend. So he wears wigs on his dates...

Hugo is a man on the dating scene, desperate for a girlfriend but convinced that his baldness keeps him from getting one. Meeting many new women in a concentrated period, he goes to elaborate lengths to disguise his baldness with a series of wigs, some more obviously fake than another. Eventually, he hits on the perfect way to disguise his hair loss, and coincidentally, meets the perfect woman, Chantal.

But keeping up the ruse of having hair begins to get in the way of their burgeoning relationship, as maintaining the illusion of a full head of hair becomes more and more important. But Hugo's efforts prove strenuous, and hiding his secret begins to collide with the relationship's growing intimacy.

Written and directed by Wibout Warnaar, this short romantic comedy tracks a man's search for love in the modern dating scene. But the emphasis is less on the warm fuzzies of romantic emotion traditionally associated with the rom-com genre. With its tumultuous handheld camera and herky-jerky visual style, it resembles more of an action movie in look and feel at times, and we never quite settle into Hugo's psyche. But the agitated camerawork and jagged editing also highlight Hugo's discomfort with himself as he puts himself out there, romantically, and goes through great effort to disguise what he sees as his biggest deficiency, his baldness.

Well-paced and continually engaging, the storytelling chronicles Hugo's series of bad wigs and his dates' reactions to them, having a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun. But then Hugo finally lands on a wig that looks fairly natural, and it works: he connects with the attractive, intelligent Chantal. Hugo can't quite believe his luck, and things begin to look up for him, romantically. The film takes a little more time and space to track Hugo's emotional state. He's both excited by the possibility of love and partnership, but he also has something to lose now.

Actor Chris van Veenen does an excellent job keeping his performance grounded and understated, even within the film's heightened visual style and its occasional moments of farce. We empathize with Hugo's fear of being found out, even as we're amused by the prevarications and white lies he tells to keep up the ruse. But as the relationship with Chantal deepens, we also see that such an illusion can't be maintained in the face of the couple's growing intimacy.

Amusing, entertaining and also insightful, "Patched" is relatable to anyone who's felt the need to present a more perfect, polished version of themselves in the rituals of courtship and romance. We may not all be bald, but we all have things about ourselves that provoke inner embarrassment, judgment and shame. We may also go to great lengths to hide these "flaws" in the hopes of being found lovable enough by someone. But as the final "zinger" in the film shows, good people are rarely as harsh as our inner critics -- and we should extend our emotional generosity to ourselves as much as others.




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