FANTASIA REVIEW: Ladies it’s Time to Dump Him, ‘Don’t Text Back’ (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Don’t Text Back is the embodiment of the phrase: You can do better than him.”

Warn your friends about shitty dudes; that truly should be the motto for millennial dating culture. The heteronormative world is filled with horror stories from young women about bad Tinder dates and terrible relationships. From the classic, “oh my god this guy doesn’t even have a bed frame,” to “the dude who took me out to dinner ignored me the whole time to watch the Raptors game,” women who date cisgender men have put up with the bare minimum for too long. It’s time for women to collectively raise their standards. Mariel Sharp’s and Kaye Adelaide’s latest short film Don’t Text Back is a public service announcement from the powerful lesbian couple saying: dump him already, you can do better!

Kelly (Danielle Lapointe), a very Type-A woman, visits Jaren (Nancy Webb), a queer energy healer, in a last-ditch effort to fix her dating life. Kelly has gone on a couple of dates with Will (PY Letellier), a crappy musician who she’s really not into, but still talks to him mostly because of the magical necklace she received in the mail that chokes her whenever she receives a text from Will. The women need to work fast to undo the magic, as constant texts from Will come in harassing Kelly into coming to his next show and the necklace gets tighter and tighter around her neck.

Kelly has a typical story of putting up with terrible guys, but more depth is shown as she confronts her dating life. Jaren is more realized as a character since the story takes place in her apartment. Littered with houseplants and crystals, Jaren is a witch, a commentary on pseudo-spirituality. She is judgemental and defensive of her witchy interests, using classic objects of millennial magic, even turning on whale noises in an effort to help Kelly. Lapointe and Webb have great chemistry with one another, their bond quickly blooms when the dangers of the necklace are revealed.

Don’t Text Back melds horror and comedy with a queer spin. The horror obviously comes from the magical choking necklace cutting into Kelly’s skin, but also from the fact that women feel obligated to text back bad dates. The comedy comes from the satirical knock on contemporary dating culture that every woman in their 20s has experienced some level of a bad date, making Don’t Text Back especially relatable. While the dialogue sometimes borders on cringey, it makes sense for it to be in millennial speak. In a kick to the patriarchy, the story becomes one of women looking out for each other. Mariel Sharp and Kaye Adelaide become honorary lesbian moms to their audience, letting them know that it’s okay to stop talking to him. It’s not magic, you can dump him.

Dir: Mariel Sharp, Kaye Adelaide

Prod: Mariel Sharp, Kaye Adelaide

Cast: Danielle Lapointe, Nancy Webb, PY Letellier

Premiere Date: 26 August 2020

Available on: Don’t Text Back screened at Fantasia Fest.