Noon, Friday, Oct. 4, Lon Chaney Theatre(screens with Mad Ship); 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5, City Auditorium
For a short film whose first line is "I don't do anal," Six Letter Word is remarkably sweet and limitedly edgy. The title refers both to a boy's fixation with crossword puzzles and the autism responsible for it.
Writer/director Lisanne Sartor, who made the $25,000 movie for her final student project at the AFI Directing Workshop for Women, notes in some press materials that the film was inspired by her own experiences coming to terms with her older son's autism. That said, she's quick to point out that she's "not the unlikely mom in the film."
That would be Zoe, played by an adept Rumer Willis (daughter of Bruce and Demi), who in order to support her autistic child, Jax, performs sex work. In the opening scene, she meets Pete (an also-solid Josh Braaten), who just wants someone to hold while falling asleep.
Then she surprisingly re-meets Pete, as he's a school therapist to whom her mother Marilyn insists Jax be taken for a diagnosis. That's where she hears that Jax "doesn't need fixing, he needs help adapting."
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Which pretty much sums up each character in the film, as tensions play out between the family members and between Zoe and Pete, thankfully not in any predicted sentimental or sappy way.
Sartor makes no side judgment on Zoe's profession (hence the opening line), avoiding a pitfall digression. More so, she keeps the focus on what a mother is willing to do for a child, as well as on the affliction itself. It's a tight 16 minutes of student-level filmmaking with some mid-level Hollywood actors contributing weight.