As discussed often on this website, the fine folks at Pixar Animation Studios have a special way with conveying humor within the most difficult emotions.  From their beloved feature films to their memorable shorts, I have longed called this phenomenon the “Pixar Punch.”  For a while now, I have wondered how someone could bottle that signature Pixar-level lightness for dramatic heft and pour it into a live-action piece with the same welcome whimsy.  I might have found the closest attempt yet in Chad Hamilton’s lovely short film Not Yet.

It’s a lovely and brisk fall day in the park confines of Filter Square in Philadelphia.  Kids are climbing on statues.  Leaves are falling.  A mime (Mike Yak) is performing for pedestrians passing by.  A young bearded man (Jonathan Noto) stops a bicycle flower vendor to buy a bloom.  He takes a big whiff and brings it with a smile to a woman (Falon Joslyn) who likely must be his wife.  

The chipper background music stops and the man’s affectionate grin is not received by her.  Energy slows.  The visual clues of a head wrap, pale complexion, and the present wheelchair she is sitting in point to a woman suffering from cancer who has had better days.  Saddened, but lovingly undaunted, the man seeks for the right measure of action to cheer her up in fanciful fashion.

Not Yet moves nimbly with an artistic design that seeks the cartoonish in a positive and clever way.  The actors share no dialogue, allowing subtle and not-so-subtle body language to tell their story.  Sound effects are purposefully exaggerated by sound designer Luftar Van Rama to punctuate those wordless scenes while a few quick Edgar Wright-esque cuts from editor Jonathan Shavelson bounce you around visually as the short film moves.  Christopher Sisco’s musical score wraps the elements together and injects the necessary mood in all the right places.  Striking that collective tone within such a style is very impressive.

The power and delight of Not Yet is in the flourishes of affecting simplicity.  With each new turn of the husband reminiscing and encouraging with his wife, writer-director Chad Hamilton composes a landscape that overflows Filter Square with hues and gloss of pure playfulness.  Hamilton recognizes that moments can go anywhere one wants, yet are still fractional pieces of time in the grand scheme of things.  The title itself symbolizes a piece of that logic. 

In just nine minutes, Not Yet encapsulates that human phenomenon and nails the emotional investment that comes in little private moments.  Celebrated by selections in fourteen film festivals and counting, this short film truly feels like a Pixar animated short come to life.  Momentary cheer like that is worth every second.

LESSON #1: PARKS AS PLACES OF SOLACE-- City parks may have been designed by architects with a list of purposes and possibilities in mind, but they are still free-form with how different people will use and enjoy them.  They are sample sliver of nature in an urban habitat and a strolling vacation from domesticity.  Infinite solace is possible in the right place that takes you away from the norm.

LESSON #2: THE IMMENSE CHALLENGES OF CHEERING SOMEONE UP-- Some folks are tough nuts to crack in the cheer department.  Add the physical drain and toll of illness into that equation of happiness and the challenge is even greater.  Self-deprecating humor in this situation often works in spades, but there’s one action that’s even better: Love.  In Not Yet, you have a man that unabashedly loves his wife with every ounce of willingness and companionship.  Love always wins the best cheers.