Brevity is an art form that aids certain strands of storytelling. Five films have made it into the Oscar shortlist, each a variant on their expertise on the human existence. Two come from Canada, expressing a differ outlay to the Anglo-centred films more mainstream Canadian films hold. The other three deal with suspense, one of which has generated a violent reaction in the presses for re-telling one of the most traumatic events of the 1990s: the James Bulger murder. Elsewhere, a mother holds tightly to the telephone which her son speaks into, while an innocuous gesture leads to a race war…
1. Detainment (Vincent Lambe):
This Irish/British production takes a harrowing, heavy look on the expeditions led by two young killers. I’ve written a full length review detailing its merits, but for those deterred by news reports and misinformation, director Vincent Lambe has made a film about people, not about murder. Click here for our full review of the short film, and here for this writer’s article in defence of filmmaker Vincent Lambe (who encountered fierce resistance from James Bulger’s mother, who never saw the film).
2. Fauve (Jeremy Comte):
Set in the wild industrial backwaters of Québec, two troublemaking boys explore an abandoned mine. The title, which loosely translates into Wildcats, is one of two Canadian entries. Heavy on character, Fauve details the exterior journey detailing the interior journey two boys undergo. It’s a nicely shot film (cinematographer Olivier Goss offers some naturalistic and clever details pertaining to the outside world), but the two leads, Felix Grenier and Alexandre Perreault, offer pedestrian performances unable to match the film’s more cathartic moments. The film borrows a little too heavily from Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014) for comfort leading to a film that seems unoriginally bland.
3. Marguerite (Marianne Farley):
The second Canadian film enters into the mindset of Marguerite (Béatrice Picard), an elderly woman curtailing her suppressed feelings for another woman after learning that her home care nurse Rachel (Sandrine Bisson) is a lesbian. Picard is tremendous, immaculate in bed ridden regalia, at her liberated grace and being, free to accept herself and her place in the world. Were it not for restrictions regarding an actress’ length of screen-time, Picard would be a worthy Actress Oscar placeholder. The film is also pictured at the top of this article.
4. Madre (Rodrigo Sorogoyen):
A Spanish short film written and directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Madre details a worrying call between mother and child. Informed by her six-yea-old that his father has left him deserted on a beach. Stellar thrills brings audiences into the mindset of a parent’s worst nightmare, holding one shot on every inch of the mother’s worried face. It’s a heavy 16-minute watch, managing thrills every minute of its run time, sealed with a staggering lead performance.
5. Skin (Guy Nattiv):
In a small supermarket in a blue-collar town, a black man smiles at a 10-year-old white boy across the checkout aisle. This leads to an inevitable war between two gangs. It details the problems of gun ownership in America, instigating internalised racism, yet the film slags within the run time of 20 minute. The mass use of swearing and weaponry does little to offer audiences whole documentaries showcase in a more virile and effective manner. Passé, bland, this is the weakest and least engaging of the five nominees. Strange to think it’s got the highest audience on ShortsTV!