By Luke Harris | Drama
An overweight girl goes to the gym -- and falls prey to a toxic trainer.

Pam is an overweight teenage girl struggling with her self-image. Eager to have a physique like the girls she sees in magazines and social media, she diets, though her efforts are often maligned by her mother, who lashes out when Pam rejects her cooking in favor of healthier meals.

In her quest for self-improvement, she decides to exercise and meets a trainer at the gym, who promises to coach Pam to her desired weight and shape. But when the trainer proves toxic, Pam must find the inner strength to accept and love herself as she is.

Written and directed by Luke Harris, this deeply empathetic short drama is a portrait of a young teenage girl struggling with her weight and shape. In a culture where notions of "self-love" and "body positivity" have become sometimes shallow buzzwords on social media, the storytelling of "Pam" honors just how complex, fraught and lonely it can be to exist in a shape not honored, much less celebrated, by society. That exclusion costs Pam -- and perhaps many other people -- a belief in her self-worth that makes her prey to toxic people and rhetoric.

Though this narrative is about one girl's relationship with her body, it comes to its subject matter from a subjective perspective, from the insightful writing to the clarity of the direction. Visually, the focus is often on Pam in closeup, emphasizing Pam's emotional and internal experience as she navigates her relationship with her mother and then that with her trainer. Actor Lizzy Howell's performance is achingly vulnerable, with emotional clarity and honesty that bring Pam's nuances to life. We see how determined she is, but also how that determination is fueled by a belief that something is wrong with her. We see how much it hurts her to be treated cruelly by her mother at times, and then by the trainer, who takes all of Pam's weaknesses and exploits them in the name of a skewed idea of physical fitness. But when Pam is pushed too far, she realizes how far she is from healthy, mentally.

Weight, fitness and wellness are loaded topics, and people who do not fit current physical ideals often face judgment and dehumanization, even from themselves, which has consequences in a landscape full of often harmful trends, fads and misinformation. "Pam" has the feel of a chamber drama, with its tight cast of characters and its intimate emotional scope. But its ending -- a wide landscape shot of Pam in a park, walking with her mother -- is hopeful that Pam has found her route to well-being, in her way and on her terms. And hopeful that it comes out of a place of self-love and self-nurturing, as well.

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