At some point in every kid’s life, it’s natural to feel like you don’t belong. To feel like for whatever reason, you’re different than everyone else. But imagine how much those feelings would amplify if your outward appearance reflected those inner insecurities.
The young protagonist at the heart of the short film “What You Need” experiences exactly that — He is half-boy, half-monkey in a world where everyone else around him is 100 percent human. We don’t know what caused him to be this way. Physically, he is just different.
Written and directed by commercial and short film director Nickolas Duarte, “What You Need” is set to debut online in June after making its way through the film festival circuit. The movie garnered the best drama prize at at the Atlanta ShortsFest, and was also an official selection at The Loft International Film Festival, The Atlanta Underground Film Festival and The FusionFest.
The film provides a snapshot of the life of the unnamed monkey boy (Rudolpho Duarte) as he faces the same issues and insecurities as any other young child, but with an appearance unlike any of his peers. He has the build of an average child, but the face of a monkey and limbs covered with a coating of hair.
Otherwise, he experiences many of the same things as other children. His mother (Megan Mioduski) reads to him. He plays with his favorite toys. He throws a towel around his shoulders and pretends to be a superhero. But he’s also uninterested in school and doesn’t socialize with his classmates, preferring to spend time lost in his imagination or observing the local homeless population. And while he has a strong bond with his mother, his father is absent.
“What You Need” is only about four minutes long, but it packs a hefty emotional punch in that short amount of time. The boy’s connection with his mother is sweet and satisfying, his reliable, constant source of support. But a scene in which his mother is on the phone with his father, imploring him to allow his son to live a normal life despite his physical oddity, is pretty heartbreaking.
Behind his rough complexion and his large protruding mouth are extremely expressive eyes, viewing the world with a sense of childlike innocence. It’s easy to relate to the boy’s childhood whimsy, because however different he appears, he appeals to the child in every human being.
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