Walt (2011) – By Cary Conley

Walt is the sweetest old gentleman in town. Even though he is blind, he is perfectly capable, and lives on the outskirts of town in a small but well-kept house. Walt loves fishing and never misses a day sitting on the edge of a creek, with a beer in one hand and a pole in the other. James is a 13-year-old boy who is having a tough time. His mother died of cancer and his father spends most of his time drinking to drown his sorrows, so James is frequently alone. On top of all this, the kids at school bully James, saying some horrible things to him. One day, distraught after a particularly nasty exchange of insults at school, James finds himself wandering through the fields only to discover Walt’s secret fishing hole. The two strike up a friendship and very quickly James begins to meet Walt nearly every day. Walt teaches James to fish, but more importantly, he befriends James and even becomes a father-figure to the lonely boy, offering him advice about school, dealing with bullies, and even advice on girls. One day James brings his new girlfriend, Ellie, to meet Walt. Unfortunately, Walt suffers from an undisclosed illness and he has forgotten his pills. The two youths help Walt through the woods to his home. As Ellie helps Walt to the couch, James goes to the shed where Walt keeps a stash of the pills for just such an emergency. But James quickly begins to realize that something is amiss when he can’t find any evidence of the pills; just as he turns to go, he sees Walt standing in the doorway, blocking his exit.

Walt is a terrific, 25-minute short film that plays as a sweet and tender coming-of-age story until the twist at the end. The two lead actors are absolutely fantastic. John Regan stars as Walt and is just superb as the elderly father-figure glad for the company while he fishes while Cian Lavelle-Walsh stars as the troubled boy James, a young man whose life is on a steep downward spiral but who gains some much-needed stabilization from Walt. The chemistry between these two actors is undeniable and serves to strengthen the on-screen friendship. The scene where James brings his new girl to meet Walt makes the viewer’s heart flutter with genuine joy as we watch James blossom into a happy and well-balanced young man, all due to the tutelage of a friendly old man. This makes the twist ending all the more surprising and shocking because it comes from out of left field. It is totally unexpected.

Written, directed, produced, and edited by Randal Plunkett, Walt is perfectly manipulative as it tugs at all the right heart-strings…until the end when it reaches for the entire heart. The cinematography is excellent and the scenery, filmed near Dunsany Castle in Ireland, is gorgeous. It evokes the classic perpetual Autumn landscape one thinks of when thinking of the British Isles. The subtle musical score is also a high point of the film.

Walt is not yet available to the public, but if by chance you are able to catch a screening of this wonderful film, don’t miss it.