The Light And The Little Girl

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The Light And The Little Girl is a short with a simple concept that is all at once sweet, innocent and just a little bit heartbreaking. We follow a little girl as she chases a beam of light through an empty house, watching it flit through her fingers and dance from room to room, accompanied by a haunting and ethereal soundtrack.

The look of the film is soft and fabulously shot, with great tones and technical finesse. The light is used effectively – a character in its own right – and the girl is a silent but strong role who impressively carries the story along without a single word of dialogue.

In terms of storyline, the premise is simple but effective. There are no big twists or turns, no complex side stories to follow. It’s sweet – silly even – playing upon the theme of the child’s vast imagination and endearing curiosity. We’re thrown into a world devoid of adults and full of pretty things, a dream-like setting in which the little girl’s escapades unfold. Between the orchid, stacks of old dusty books, goldfish and pretty magnifying glass we’re left somewhere in between a fairytale and a Tim Walker photograph: magical and beautiful and ripe for a story such as this.

That being said, the depressing symbolism of the beam is slightly unavoidable; this illuminating, warm and beautiful thing, pretty and present but always out of her grasp. It’s frustrating and saddening to watch as she tries, with optimism, to outwit the light, deflating each time she fails. This is a film about childhood and the inevitable, crushing moments at which we all have to face up to the realities that counter-act our wild and unbounded childish imaginations. The beam begins as this magical, pretty thing and ends up instigating a harsh truth: that the light cannot be captured. It cannot be held, and it is in this respect that the film carries a much more serious tone.

Regardless of the director’s intention and whatever you take from the film – whether you view it as a playful, sweet short or a masked comment on the loss of innocence every child inevitably faces – The Light And The Little Girl is brilliantly executed and well worth a watch.

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Sausage

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Robert Grieves’ animated short, is full of charm, character and wit. Offering an allegory on the perils of mass production, the film focuses on a previously peaceful, distinctly continental-feeling market square, where small businesses are quickly monopolized by new competition. What begins as a pleasant ambiance, with customers buying what they need from an artisan baker and a butcher, is soon overtaken by unprecedented greed from a new third party.

Sausage focuses on the tipping point at which healthy competition becomes unfair and uneven, and the film has the feel of a real labour of love. With great attention to detail, such as with the rich art direction and silent, yet vivid characterisation of the three central players, Grieves uses the construct of the ‘moustache-twirling villain’ to great effect, building a character who is certainly comical in his villainy, but no less effectively threatening to the established status quo.

The film can be regarded as topical, alluding to the soulless ‘content’ of mass production versus the attention and care paid by artists of their particular field. Rattling out goods on a production line with little concern for the end product is demonstrated as faster, but not necessarily superior, to processes which take more time and result in more uneven results.

There are also some rather culturally relevant ideas within the film about the lengths to which companies must go in order to impress their increasingly fickle and demanding customers in a saturated market, with the small business owners, suddenly threatened, resorting to tricks entirely separated from what they are actually selling – literally and figuratively back-flipping and giving away prizes in order to win the approval of the crowd and make a sale. By the time we reach his gloriously anarchic finale, it’s clear to see where Grieves’ sympathies lie.

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Blue Monday

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Packed full of charm, humour and impeccable acting, Blue Monday is an absolute must-see! The film follows Claire, a depressive and unassuming girl who works at a call centre. Today is her birthday, and despite her polite attempts to dismiss any celebrations, she is unwillingly thrown into them, leading to an entertaining and captivating short.

Claire is a relatively normal twenty-something year old. She’s not kooky or particularly glamorous (not to say that she isn’t an attractive girl) but there’s something about that normality that really strikes a chord. She’s the girl that is being left behind: while friends achieve great career feats, she’s still working in a call centre, getting too drunk and going home with uninteresting guys, and yet instead of being uninspiring, her character is really rather wonderful. She’s charming despite her lack of obvious pizazz and her down-to-earth nature makes her an unaffected and fascinating lead.

Blue Monday is not a tale of optimism or humour and yet, peppered amongst the cool tones and sorry reflections there are scenes of subtle but undeniable hilarity. In one scene, for example, Claire and her colleague stand outside smoking cigarettes and discussing various ways in which they will bang each others heads against the wall. This scene is absolutely wonderful – so cooly acted, with natural chemistry and dialogue – and is one of many such scenes with enough wit to carry the viewer through the more serious truths.

The acting, too, is faultless. I believed each and every line from each and every character and it’s this meticulous delivery that makes the film so smooth and watchable. The characters are cleverly constructed – fascinating, but relatable – and they slot together with impressive chemistry and rapport.

Often with short films the plot is their downfall, but happily Blue Monday excels in this respect as well. The story is short and sweet but there’s a depth to it that works so well. There are layers, without it being overly complicated, and this is the film’s ultimate charm. In such a short amount of time we successfully get a very rounded idea of who Claire is and what her life is like.

This is a film that is, quite simply, just very done well. To fit such charm and chemistry into a film is no mean feat, so to achieve this in a short like Blue Monday is quite something, and makes for a really enjoyable watch. The film is smooth and acted with ease. There wasn’t a single thing I didn’t enjoy about it and for that reason I would highly recommend it.

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Kerry

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Kerry is a short documentary about a Toronto-based Muay Thai fighter who left a life of street fighting and criminality when a close friend was murdered. Screened at the Portland International Film Festival 2013, this is a very human, honest portrait of a man who was shocked into carving out a new, much more positive life, and is a very real, grounded version of the timeless theme of overcoming adversity.

Kerry begins by discussing his past as the guy to call ‘if you wanted someone beaten up’, and his immersion in Toronto’s criminal underworld. What is striking is how mellow and sincere Kerry appears – we get the impression that he is regretful and ashamed, and it seems hard to reconcile this calm and likeable man with the image he paints of his previous self. The way in which he talks seems to suggest that the subject is difficult for him, and distinctly separate from the man he is now: he speaks slowly, stuttering now and again, as if he is reluctant to give voice to painful memories.

In discussing the climax of his former life, the murder of a close friend with a large hunting knife, Kerry is stark and to the point. While the story is tragic, Kerry’s determination to change his life following this traumatic event is heart-warming, and his humility makes it easy for him to be an Everyman and for this to be an inspirational story about self-betterment.

Kerry goes on to discuss his new life, at which point a soundtrack kicks in, signalling the second ‘half’ of the film, and of Kerry’s life. Violence is transmuted through Muay Thai into an avoidance of pain and conflict, and the parallel importance of self-discipline and control, and this makes the film, as well as Kerry’s life and sense of purpose, feel fuller.

The cinematography is simple, and it is clear that the emphasis is on Kerry’s story rather than elaborate camera work. Indeed, the colours are muted and the most action is in slow-motion shots of Kerry training and fighting an opponent in the ring. This simplicity adds to the overall sense of honesty and modesty of the piece, and of Kerry himself, and again emphasizes the sense of control, both with regard to the nature of Muay Thai and, more broadly, the control Kerry now has over his life.

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