‘The Macabre World of Lavender Williams’: Cheerful Style Cloaking Grim Substance

In 2010 Nicolas Delgado, USC graduate film student, made The Macabre World of Lavender Williams, an extraordinary short film about a little girl who loses her mother and sets out on a journey to find her father with the help of her zombie dog Lester, and it took five years for the film to reach our eyesight. When it finally did, we were absolutely charmed. When an 8-year-old girl called Lavender loses her mother to cancer, she refuses to admit she’s an orphan and decides to find her estranged father, whom she had never seen but who frequently sends her letters. To help her with this challenging task, God resurrects her dead dog Lester and blackmails this grumpy creature—if he doesn’t lend Lavender his helping paw, he’ll go straight to hell. Lester and Lavender reluctantly join forces and embark on an epic journey that ultimately leads the little girl to a heart-breaking discovery.

First of all—and this is penned with no disrespect for student films in general—it has to be said that for a project of this profile the quality of the cast and the overall production value are quite surprising. Robert Zemeckis, having been delighted by Delgado’s script, agreed to serve as his mentor, while the great Christopher Lloyd and John Lithgow also joined the crew. The revelation, however, comes in the form of the protagonist—the 12-year-old Lily Jackson practically carries the show on her own. When it comes to the visual, the film is top notch. With its macabre, Burton-like atmosphere, a constant dominance of dark and blueish tones, accompanied by rather effective and purposeful sound effects, The Macabre World of Lavender Williams is a joy to behold. This is not to say that style over substance is what Delgado is all about—just like it should be, at the core of this gem of a film is a good story, turned to life by the gracious performance of its little star. The effects seem simple, natural, convincing. CGI never gains the upper hand in Delgado’s storytelling, serving only as an enhancement of the story without throwing any shadow on what’s really important here: Delgado’s obvious talent for storytelling and a Steven Spielberg-like inclination to touch the hearts of the audience.

The screenplay is impressively written. The idea at the center of the story is delightful, albeit incredibly sad—we’re looking at a child with vivid imagination trying to make sense of the dark things happening around her. This is evident from the very beginning, when a horrifying, scarfaced man who likes to be called Cancer knocks on the Williams’ door and shoots Lavender’s ailing mother. Delgado tells his story from a child’s perspective, giving it a commendable air of innocence and sincerity. To be honest, I found this film to be a little traumatic. It stayed with me after the end credits. It haunted me a bit. Not that it was scary—although it’s definitely creepy at times—but it uses a narrative technique that succeeds at telling a heart-breaking story in a naive, cheerful, good-natured, optimistic way so that, at the end, the brightness of the style actually cloaks the grimness of the substance.

Nick Delgado is an award-winning filmmaker born and raised in Madrid, Spain. After writing professionally for Spanish television, Nick came to the States to attend the prestigious USC School of Cinematic Arts where he made fifteen shorts and many directing projects, showing a natural talent for visual storytelling and working with actors. While at USC, his talent caught the attention of Robert Zemeckis who decided to take Nick under his wing and become his mentor. Under Zemeckis’s auspices, Nick made The Macabre World of Lavender Williams, starring Christopher Lloyd, John Lithgow and Rex Linn. This moving film is filled with whimsical characters and wondrous visual effects and showcases a very distinct visual flair. It was screened at over 40 film festivals worldwide and won multiple awards.

Nick resides in Los Angeles where he splits his time between directing commercials and developing a roster of projects, which include the fantasy movie Lavender Williams and the Orphan Souls, based on his award-winning short, and the science fiction epic WebCam, for which he’s currently shooting a proof of concept reel, starring a familiar face from Agents of Shield. Nick’s a storyteller at heart and loves to use cutting edge visual and practical effects to tell innovative stories rich in character and emotion. He is represented by Archetype Management and ICM Partners.

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