The plot of the short film is pretty simple. Greg, the main character, is moving away with his boyfriend Manuel, far away from his parents who he isn’t out to yet. Out of fear of his parents discovering his sexuality, he doesn’t ask them for any help. But surprise! His parents drop in for a visit to give their son one last goodbye before he moves. Pretty simple, right?
Not exactly. At the beginning of the short, two cosmic beings (never really explained) that take on the forms of a cat and dog send Greg a magical collar labeled “Jim” his way. The cat instructs the dog, and the audience, to “just watch. Something magical is about to happen.” And sure enough something magical happens, in more ways than one.
Thinking the collar is Jim’s, Greg’s dog, he places the collar back on his dog as he hides away a picture of himself and his boyfriend Manuel. Manuel makes his escape out the back door, advising Greg to “tell them.”
Of course, the collar finds its way on to Greg’s neck. The magical properties take over, and Greg and his dog Jim switch bodies. The dog Jim, in Greg’s body, runs around like… well, a dog, knocking things over and chasing squirrels. Meanwhile, Greg, in the dog’s body, distracts his mother from seeing the photo of him and his boyfriend. After being chasing the dog around the house, who has ripped p a Men on Fire calendar and peed on the carpet, Greg’s mother makes her way to Greg’s room where dog Greg is trying to hide the picture.
In a desperate attempt to hide the photo, dog Greg bites his mother. She drops the picture and sees the couple. Upset that her son is hiding a side of himself, she confides in dog Greg saying, “This hurts” referring to her son moving so far away. She hopes that, some day, Greg will find someone who loves him just as much as his parents love him “whoever that may be.” She finishes by saying, “whoever it is that…” she pauses and finishes saying “well, that he makes ya happy.”
In the end, Greg gets his body back and decides to come out to his parents. In the final scene Manuel meets Greg’s parents. The father shakes his hand, and they hug it out. End scene.
Right off the bat I immediately fell in love with the art style of the short film. It’s colorful and fun and abstract at times (I’m talking about you, cosmic cat and dog), but also grounded for older audiences. Weirdly, I felt the art and colors, the way they blended with one another, oddly captured the surreal and happy vibes I get from being at a Pride parade, just that elated feeling of being free and happy with a piece of yourself that you were once so ashamed of is just so freeing, and the colors and art style reminded me of that.
Along with the story, it’s simple and yet fun for everyone. It’s obvious that Greg, out of fear of being rejected by his parents, plans to move away from a suburban town to the big city where, one can deduce, he and Manuel can be out and proud. However, Greg is doing it at the expense of moving away from his parents which is an obvious nod to him running away from his own sexuality and the inevitability of his coming out.
I also enjoyed Manuel’s persistence in demanding his boyfriend tell his parents. While I understand that everyone comes out at their own pace, and significant others should be patient with that, it’s clear Manuel is a bit annoyed at being kept a secret from Greg’s parents. I thought the film did a great job in capturing Manuel’s frustration, not to vilify him, but to sort of act as the catalyst and the silent fact that Greg can’t maintain such a façade his entire life.
At the climax of the story, where Greg’s mother discovers the picture of Greg and Manuel, she ponders over the lost relationship she and her son once had. Throughout the film she clearly shows love for her son, making his favorite food, keeping it warm for him when he doesn’t immediately come over to eat, and even dropping by to help with the move even without Greg asking her. Then on the couch outside she vocalizes that pain aloud, the pain of losing her close relationship with her son, for possibly the first time she’s felt that feeling.
Greg’s relationship with his mother and the walls he’s put up against his parents is a story that has existed in coming out stories from the very beginning and yet the film tackles this feeling in a very nuanced way that very few pieces of media deal with. It’s probably been shown in films before, but the first time I personally witnessed such a nuanced way of dealing with this particular story formula of coming out was in Love, Simon and then a few years after in Schitt’s Creek. In both instances, for Simon and Patrick, they hide a piece of themselves out of the small possibility of being rejected. And I say small for a reason. In Simon and Patrick’s case, and now Greg’s, we clearly see that his parents show love and support for him. But there’s that small possibility, that dread in the back of both of their minds, that prevents them from coming out to their parents; that actually convinces them, and also prepares them if they are rejected, that it’s better to put up walls than to be open and honest and possibly hurt. It’s a feeling every LGBTQ+ child faces no matter how open-minded their parents are. Which is why it’s so refreshing to see Love, Simon, Schitt’s Creek, and now Out tackle coming out in this way. Because for so many LGBTQ+ kids all they need is just that little extra push to come out.
The short film also strays away from the more tragic coming out stories. You know, the one’s where the gay kid finds love and peace within himself, only to be outed and bullied and rejected by his parents to then commit suicide or beaten to death. I’m happy they’ve moved away from those narratives partially because seeing those narratives as a kid didn’t exactly tell me there was a happy ending to the small fear and possibility of being rejected by family. In fact, it might have even made me internalize some homophobia against myself and self-hatred, possibly convincing me to stay in the closet for even longer.
Moving forward what I hope this short film does is to encourage big film companies and big publishing companies to explore more of their gay characters in more nuanced ways in the same way that Out did, and not to explore their gay characters, or minority characters, in the form of a check list (tokenism) and to cycle through the same two gay tropes. I also hope this convinces bigger companies that it’s okay to have a gay main character—that if you write a good story fans will like them more instead of the constant pandering and tokenism they commit to for the sake of doing the bare minimum. Of course, companies like Disney must be willing to take some financial hit because, as always, there will always be naysayers.
Overall, the short film was incredibly real and open, delving into new ways in dealing with the coming out tales. The magic element was refreshing and probably enticing for kids to watch so that it will normalize LGBTQ+ peoples. My only complaint, or perhaps not a complaint at all, is that I hope we get to see more stories like this told and that this isn’t just a single rock in a pond, but a single brick in a bridge that will pave the way for more stories like this to be told.