“Did you have pygmy zygotes?”
I really didn’t know what to expect when Becky Lane’s short film Hens & Chicks began. It opens up to show young Hanna and Marco on their way home from school. You assume the two have whatever kind of crush one can at the age on each other, and see it confirmed somewhat when the two race. The finish is somewhat anticlimactic as Marco trips and falls—as he is wont to do—relaying the fact his carrying her books hindered his ability to go full speed. With conversations about the importance of the human body to create poop and Marco’s father being a Cornell professor in Animal behavior, I started to think this could be a pretty entertaining look into childhood curiosity.
But then the short took a deeper turn as they discover a note saying Hanna’s Moms are out and that she should gather some eggs from the chicken coup for dinner. Not only does this reveal the fact that the chickens of the title are a literal part of the proceedings, but also alludes to the young girl having two mothers. And here is where the metaphor of a rooster comes into play, becoming the main crux of the story at hand. A seemingly harmless lesson from Marco about Hanna needing to get a rooster in order for chicks to be born, coupled with an old school black and white sex-ed video found online, plants the seed in her brain to wonder how exactly she came to be.
Mins, (Amy Driesler), thinks they should have broached the subject with their daughter long ago, but Sarah, (Sarah Hankins), thinks it’s a subject that needs delicate care, if not glossing over completely. Hanna’s insistence on finding out who her ‘rooster’ is becomes too much to leave unanswered and finally the women share the story of her birth. The whole thing is a rather endearing portrait of a family’s love for one another no matter how ‘different’ they may be from the societal norm people still hold onto. It also shows that the youth of today is more intelligent than we may think. Hanna finding out about her sperm donor—father may be too strong a word as Sarah’s definition of the word explains—will never make her love her mothers any less. It isn’t a matter of discontent or feeling betrayed and lied to; it’s just one’s curiosity for her origin.
Both Beatrice Miller and Diego Torrado are brilliant as Hanna and Marco, innocent and youthful as can be without seeming forced or unnatural. Miller is inquisitive and headstrong—much like her mothers—in her desire to find the truth. You can’t look at her with the ability to deceive, that fresh face untouched of the world’s horrors begs to be told what she desires, especially when it can only strengthen the bond between mother and child. As for Torrado, his delivery of lines that make him seem much older than his age is wonderful. When the subject of Hanna’s ‘rooster’ is brought up at the dinner table, his precocious statement of, “I’d actually be interested to hear it too,” garners a laugh. These are kids growing up and learning about the world and themselves. Lane crafts a memorable tale in that evolution; one that can resonate whether you can relate to the circumstances firsthand or not.
Hens & Chicks 7/10 | ★ ★ ★
Diego Torrado and Beatrice Miller. Photo courtesy of www.hensandchicksfilm.com