Simon is a young gay man followed by two documentarists who want to help him find a date – a seemingly simple quest, except that Simon is a werewolf, in a world where monsters have recently made themselves visible but aren’t yet accepted by society.
It isn’t hard to realize that with this premise, Marley Jaeger wants to tackle HIV/AIDS and especially the discrimination and self-hatred that comes with it.
Lycanthropy as a metaphor for HIV isn’t new and works rather well, both being associated with contamination, the fear of transmission that pushes people away, painful physical changes and a life often in hiding.
In Simon’s Quest, Jaeger succeeds both to put this metaphor to good use but also to just have some fun with it.
The mockumentary format allows for great directing: Jaeger avoids having the camera always in movement, shaking around, but instead often sets it down or keeps the movements fluid.
The actors are all good, with natural dialogues and delivery, notably the lead Johnny Pozzi – this makes Simon’s Quest feel very real.
The sound however clashes with this realism, as it is either of mediocre quality
(the introduction scene) or on the contrary, re-recorded in a studio afterwards for outdoor scenes, which creates a sound too clear to look like it was recorded on the spot.
Simon’s Quest is partly a comedy, and the jokes overall work well and add to a fun atmosphere throughout, with the exception of one or two gags that bring the movie (and the metaphor at the core of it) down.
Having a drawn-out scene of one of the documentarists playing fetch with Simon feels very cheap, for example. But the majority of the short film is more grounded, with the director using the mockumentary format not only for jokes but also to root the story in a (fake) reality that makes it easier to parallel it with our own, especially as the metaphor goes a bit deeper than just following a man shunned out by society.
As Simon describes his condition, he explains to the documentarists that so-called cures for lycanthropy are often too dangerous (killing the man just as
much as the werewolf) or painful.
In another scene, he ponders about whether or not he should write in his Tinder profile that he’s a werewolf; or, as Simon and the documentarists play video games, he reminisces on his childhood and how much he used to love the game Castlevania, in which the aim is to kill all the monsters that he now reluctantly identifies with.
These are the moments that make Simon’s Quest work, by using the metaphor as something more than pure comedy but instead giving another perspective on the struggles faced today and in the past by HIV-positive men and women.
In the end, it is the more realistic scenes that made Simon’s Quest stand out for me, and especially the bold ending, announcing for Simon a quest that will continue to be hard but is worth pursuing as he learns to not only love himself but also face and forgive others.