A young man must deliver orders to pay his unpaid rent — or he’ll be evicted. | Underdog

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Underdog is used with permission from David Arslanian and Unifrance. Learn more at https://en.unifrance.org/movie/55524/underdog and https://www.myfrenchfilmfestival.com.

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Omeleto is partnering with Unifrance to present a selection of short films as part of its My French Film Festival 2024 event. Now in its 14th edition, MyFFF celebrates the breadth and depth of contemporary French cinema. With everything from charmingly poignant animation to naturalistic family dramedy to gritty social realist narratives, these shorts from Unifrance’s catalog demonstrate the stylistic, thematic and intellectual diversity of a rich cinematic heritage, capturing the current tenor of its ever-evolving film culture.

Mirko is a 23-year-old who works as a delivery man, ferrying food orders on his bike to various customers. He works at night, riding furiously through the streets and often dealing with rude or irate customers who take out their dissatisfaction on him.

But when Mirko gets behind on rent and his landlord tells him he only has hours left to pay his unpaid rent or face eviction, Mirko works harder than he ever has before, trying to maximize his orders to pay his debt. But during this eventful night, it’s harder than ever to work, and the obstacles feel even more daunting, even as the pressure and stakes intensify.

Directed and written by David Arslanian from a script co-written with Ed Waguette and Thomas Desenne, this pointedly raw, unvarnished short drama is as fleet, fast and urgent as its main character’s dilemma. As Mirko races through the streets on his bike, we not only trace the trail of someone’s economic desperation, but journey through a cross-section of French society. Captured in gritty, naturalistic camerawork and quick-moving storytelling, Mirko veers between fellow hard-scrabble students to wealthier professionals on his delivery routes, encountering shame, embarrassment and even abuse, which he weathers as much as he can.

But when he is dealt a final blow by fate, with his bike stolen, he begins to realize that no matter how hard he works, he will be behind. Actor Jules Ritmanic captures Mirko’s urgency and increasing desperation with a natural ease, while also hinting at his character’s life beyond the screen — one that we sense won’t develop as much as it could if Mirko is too consumed with the necessity of staying economically solvent.

Through Mirko’s travails, we come to see just how small and helpless most people are against a vastly more powerful economic system, making "Underdog" a powerful exploration of economic and social struggle and a portrait of essential but low-paid workers that make others’ lives easier and more comfortable, often at the expense of their own dignity.

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A young man must deliver orders to pay his unpaid rent — or he’ll be evicted. | Underdog
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