Umbilicus Desidero

‘Umbilicus Desidero’ (2019) Movie Review: A Goodbye Letter To Neal’s Belly Button

For the last year or two, I’ve gotten to know Neal Jones and his courageous journey. When I heard about his short, Umbilicus Desidero, I knew I had to see it even if it wasn’t something that I would typically cover at PopHorror. It’s important for the horror community to support one another and Neal is a great guy who supports everyone.

Umbilicus Desidero

This documentary short was directed by Michael J. Epstein with cinematography by Sophia Cacciola. It stars Neal Jones along with his family Johannes Grenzfurthner, Brenda Jones, Troy Jones, and Jim McDonough. The story centers around Neil who is coming to terms with no longer having a belly button and how it’s impacting his life and the people he loves.

I really enjoyed the uniqueness of this documentary, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. We often hear stories about what it’s like to lose a gallbladder, kidney, breasts and so on, but you rarely here anyone talk about the loss of their belly button. I’ve known a few people without a belly button but I’ve never thought much about until now.

Umbilicus Desidero

The story is told with a pretty serious tone but with comical moments that help lighten the mood and atmosphere. There’s a certain scene where Neal talks about feeling not normal and less than human. He’s at a bar or club and gets into it with a guy who lifts up his shirt to show off his belly button and rub it in his face that Neal doesn’t have one. It made me laugh. Also I really enjoyed any scene to where his family is talking about his surgery and their feelings about him no longer having a belly button, their reactions are priceless and memorable.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Neal as an actor, but he was great – a natural. I really loved hearing him talk and tell his story. Neal has a personality that’s contagious and you just want to listen to him and hear what he has to say, which is what makes Umbilicus Desidero and his podcast successful.

Umbilicus Desidero

As per usual, Michael J. Epstein and Sophia Cacciola are a great team and created something magical with this. A story about a regular guy coming to terms with something he no longer has. It’s not every day that you can make a story like this interesting and successful, but they did. I asked Michael what inspired him to make this film and he said:

“Neal had told me he was going into surgery, and that he would lose his belly button. He was a little anxious about the surgery, so I thought it would be fun to joke with him about how the belly button loss would affect his life. We decided we should make a doc about it. He lives in MA and we live in CA, but we were all in Boston for the Boston Underground Film Festival.

Even though it’s obviously silly in a way to mourn the loss of a belly button, we wanted to kind of treat it seriously. I guess it’s a sort of representation of any kind of loss or change for us. And Neal has gone through a lot of personal loss and change for the past couple of years, so I think he was able to kind of channel that.”

Sophia really captures everything beautifully with her cinematography. I particularly love the shot where Neal is lined perfectly up against the wall with white wings sprouting from his body. It’s very symbolic and represents the loss we all go through in life.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think everyone will appreciate the beauty of this short, but for those who enjoy documentaries with a hint of satire, I highly recommend checking out Umbilicus Desidero. It’s currently doing a festival run, and has received quite a lot of love from both critics and fans. So keep your eyes out for it and check it out if you can!

About Tori Danielle

Tori has had a passion for Horror and music ever since she was a little girl. She got bit by the writing bug in high school where she was involved in both the school newspaper and the yearbook. While getting her Bachelors degree, she took Journalism and Creative Writing classes where her passion grew even stronger. Now, in between work and family, she spends all of her spare time indulging in music, Horror movies, and nerdy fandoms, all while running/assisting one of the biggest Horror groups on Facebook and writing for various websites.

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