[“He Could’ve Gone Pro” is the third short of my “7 Queer Christmas Shorts for 2021” post. To read the next review, “Jangle”, click HERE. To read the previous review, “The Postie, click HERE.]

Wow. “He Could’ve Gone Pro” may not be a queer Christmas short film that you watch to get into the holiday spirit, but this one makes a powerful impact! With an almost artistic film vibe, the film begins subtly. However after Debbie arrives, the underlying tension of a mother trying to gloss over and hide the truth about  a tragic loss of her son contrasts beautifully with a sister struggling to sift through her own lingering guilt of the incident. It’s a tough film to watch, and may be triggering to some, however the trust is that the holidays are not always happy and jolly for some. Before I reveal the family secret, let’s break down this queer holiday short film.

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Synopsis of “He Could’ve Gone Pro”

Detailed synopsis… to be written…

When Debbie comes home for Christmas, she and her mother Gayle are forced to confront the truth about their family’s past.

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The Critique

Before we dig into the heart of “He Could’ve Gone Pro”, I must first acknowledge that even under a critical eye, I could not find any major issues with this queer short film. While the focus very quickly becomes the plot, the rest of the cinematic elements are no less worthy. At the start of this short film, we are treated to a steady camera montage of various Christmas decorations with a voiceover of the mother gossiping on the phone. It may seem rather pointless and artsy, but it sets the basis for everything that comes later: a stereotypical religious Southern mother who has all of her knick knacks on display but is involved with all of the gossip of her friends. A subtle element, but one that becomes quite important later as it’s all part of what drove her to treat her son the way she did.

Because it’s hard to discuss the film further without addressing it, let’s talk about the powerful story behind “He Could’ve Gone Pro.” From the onset, it’s clear that Debbie has zero desire to visit her mother this year for Christmas. However, she refuses to tell her boyfriend exactly what the reason is while he tries to talk her into going inside. Portrayed by the extremely talented McGhee Monteith, we can tell that Debbie is already on the verge of erupting. The underlying tension only builds on top of itself when her mother insists that if she wants her Christmas check, that she must stay for dinner.

Things seem to settle, with Gayle casually talking about her son and how much he would’ve had in common with Lamar, since they both played football. But when Debbie snaps – oh, does she snap! Before we know it, mother and daughter are yelling and screaming at each other with such vitriol that it’s very nearly shocking itself. And there’s Lamar just stuck between the two of them. In an odd way, he becomes the balance between the chaos while also caught up in the maelstrom. Debbie’s lines strike her mother harshly, and they are quite powerful and poignant. “I have to live with the fact that I didn’t stand up to you that night every day for the rest of my life….” she states. However, it’s after Debbie and Lamar leave when Gayle merely puts back her knocked over angels, goes out onto the porch for a cigarette, and calls her friend that we truly see what kind of a person she is.

It’s not an easy film to watch because of Debbie’s brothers suicide. And interestingly, the central person of the story is not even part of the film. Yet he lingers like a ghost; haunting Debbie’s inactions for standing up to her mother at the time, yet also haunting Debbie because he killed himself over something that she tries constantly to hide and cover up. While gut-wrenching, it’s an honest portrayal of a situation that many queer folk have to content with. And it’s brilliantly put onscreen in “He Could’ve Gone Pro.” It is perhaps the end of Debbie’s relationship with her mother, yet once Debbie leaves it’s almost as if the entire explosive incident never happened – because Gayle has no desire to face reality. It’s easier for her to recall only the good bits of her son and how he could’ve gone pro.

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If you’re looking for a jolly, happy, or even sappy queer Christmas short film, then “He Could’ve Gone Pro is NOT that film. That being said, this short film instead touches on many of the darker sides to the holidays which are just as important to watch and discuss. Going home for Christmas is not a positive thing for some, it can be painful and even gut-wrenching to put on a happy face just to appease everyone. “He Could’ve Gone Pro” tactfully covers what happens. It’s not a comforting film, but it’s an honest portrayal that is worth watching.

Queer Relevance of “He Could’ve Gone Pro”

At the start, it’s hard to figure out what is queer about “He Could’ve Gone Pro.” Neither the mother, the daughter Debbie, nor her boyfriend appear to be on the sexuality spectrum. However the shoe drops and all makes sense after Debbie erupts at her mother about her brother. Her gay brother who committed suicide because of how their mother treated him.

While this alone makes this queer Christmas short quite relevant, it’s actually a better representation of the aftermath should anyone think that is their way to escape. Suicide is NOT the answer, for many reasons. But “He Could’ve Gone Pro” shows us that our family left behind can sometimes struggle as much as those questioning that route. And in a darker way, it also highlights how our inactions and lack of support to fellow queer folk who are lost can be just as tragic as those who push the homophobic and hateful remarks. Debbie bluntly points out that it will haunt her for not standing up to her mother.

If you know anyone who is struggling, then PLEASE reach out and offer them support. Our guide them to the many resources out there that can help. As powerful as this short film is, I would rather that we never have to address this tragic topic at all.