Single, directed and written by Ashley Eakin and presented by AFI Directing Workshop for Women, was set to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. The short is a brazen, anti-romantic comedy that delivers an entertaining and insightful examination into dating with a disability. The film centers around Kim (Delaney Feener) who is born with one arm and gets set up on a blind date with a guy, Jake (Jordan Wiseley), who has one hand.
The short begins with Kim shopping at a grocery store only to be stared at by a small child and then patronized by a grocery clerk. As someone with a disability, the scene feels incredibly relatable. When I was using a wheelchair, people treated me as if I was helpless or worse, at death’s doorstep. The truth was I just did not have the stamina to walk far. Nevertheless, Kim’s frustration feels real.
That frustration continues when Kim arrives at her blind date and realizes Jen, a woman she met through her mother’s book club, set her up with a man with one hand. Kim’s immediate reaction is honestly downright rude as she takes out her anger on Jake but it is understandable she would be upset that the only reason her friend set them up was because the two are disabled. After trying to bail but getting caught, Jake and Kim decide to get revenge but bond along the way.
In addition to showing what it is like to date with a disability, Single also explores the internalized ableism disabled people have. When the world is not made for you, it is hard not to take that to heart and it is even harder to unlearn the harmful ideals of ableism. At the end of the day, Kim’s real issue with Jake is his hand even though, she has a similar disability. Disabled people can be ableist and it is an important reminder of how much we all need to grow.
Kim is not likable but she also isn’t supposed to be nor does she need to be. Feener’s performance is spectacular and she beautifully portrays the complicated character. Similarly, Wiseley makes Jake loveable. He is a guy you want to root for. Even though the short is only 15-minutes, the two are able to captivate audiences. It is also important to note that both actors are disabled. Seeing disability in media is incredibly rare but having disabled actors play disabled parts is even rarer.
In addition to that, Eakin has said she lives with Olliers and Maffucci Syndrome. Eakin, in her director’s notes, said, “…dating can really suck. And dating with a physical disability is even more complicated! It’s a world I’ve navigated my whole life…For 30 years, unbeknownst to me, I was an ableist – I judged a community that I fit into by my own congenital predisposition.”
At the end of the day, Single is a beautiful look at the complexity of disability. Kim’s reaction to Jake, while terrible, isn’t inaccurate. Unconscious bias is real and Single attempts to tackle the concept as it relates to disability.
At the end of the day, Single is a beautiful look at the complexity of disability.