Film Film Reviews

2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action

WHAT a delight to watch in one showing the five ‘short’ films that made the short-list for The Oscars 2019.

An hour and a half of quality film making, covering a diverse range of issues. A love never progressed in the tender Marguerite. The rising tension of Madre as a young boy rings his mother to say he has been left alone on a beach by his father. The fun and dares of two young lads in Fauve that suddenly turn horribly sour. The scintillating race revenge film Skin and most disturbing of all Detainment, based on the police interview tapes of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson as they were questioned about the sickening murder of two year old James Bulger 26 years ago.

All five films are mini masterpieces. In Marguerite, directed by Marianne Farley, it is the beautiful relationship between the elderly and infirm Marguerite (Beatrice Picard) and her carer Rachel (Sandrice Bisson) that holds the viewer.

When Marguerite realises Rachel has a girlfriend, it prompts her to dig out her photo album. Among the pictures of a stunningly attractive Marguerite is a woman she loved, but at a distance.

As she asks Rachel: ‘what is it like to make love to a woman?’ ‘It’s beautiful,’ says Rachel.
The final scene when Rachel curls up on the bed with Marguerite is an exquisite moment in a truly overwhelming film. Poignant to the end.

Madre, directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, is tension packed even though the only two people we ever see on screen are Marta (Marta Neito) and her Madre (Mother, Blanca Apilanes).

Marta Neito in ‘Madre’

About to go out, Marta receives a phone call from six year old son Ivan (Alvaro Balas) who says he is alone on a beach. The tension ratchets up as Ivan gets frightened, his phone is in danger of running out of power, and a stranger approaches him. Marta, understandably, is unable to curb her emotions. It ends with the phone going dead and the son’s fate unknown.

Was the stranger a friend or foe? The film is bookended by long shots of a deserted beach. Powerful although some will be disappointed by the ambiguity of the film’s ending.

Fauve, directed by Jeremy Comte, stands out for its cinematography and the performance of Felix Grenier as he watches his young mate (Alexander Perreault) literally disappear before his very own blue eyes. The only other observer of the two boys’ antics is an inquisitive fox.

The contrast between the dilapidated railway trucks that the boys initially play in and the vastness (and beauty) of the mine they end up in is stunning.

Felix Grenier in ‘Fauve’

Detainment, directed by Vincent Lambe, is shocking on so many levels (and has been roundly criticised by Bulger’s parents for being too sympathetic to the two killers). The film spares no punches. The horror of Bulger’s murder, the lies told by Thompson and Venables, and how they blame each other for his abduction and barbarous death.

The acting is near miraculous with Ely Solan (Venables) and Leon Hughes (Thompson) utterly convincing. Solan’s Venables is the softer of the two with Hughes’ Thompson all attitude and social awkwardness. Caleb Mason’s James does not speak throughout. Every glimpse of him is heart-breaking.

The film highlights the moments when the outcome could have been less horrific – a woman prepared to take James to the local police station, only to be thwarted by a woman more concerned about her dog.

This is a disturbing film that churns the stomach. Given some of the police tapes have never been released because of the horrors they contain, Detainment could be considered dumbed down. But it doesn’t view that way.

Finally, Skin, the short film Oscar winner, is a super race revenge film. Directed by Guy Nattiv, it looks at the aftermath of a brutal attack carried out by a father (Jonathan Tucker’s Johnny) on a man whose only crime is to smile at his son Troy (a delightful Jackson Robert Scott) at a supermarket checkout. The attacker white trash (all guns and booze). The attacked. An innocent black man doing the shopping while his family wait patiently outside in the car.

Johnny is abducted, but rather than beaten up he is tattooed from head to foot and dumped unceremoniously on the street. Unrecognisable. Black rather than white. The consequences as he returns home are dramatic as he is mistaken for a black burglar by partner Christa (Danielle Macdonald) and a gun toting Troy.

A shocking film that is not without its sensitive moments – the obvious love that flows between Troy and his father, Troy’s ‘surfing’ (a magical moment as Troy surfs on a settee tied to the back of a truck driven by his father), and Troy’s love of snakes (the more coloured they are, the more poisonous they are – a metaphor for Johnny’s racism?).

Five films made in Canada (two) , Ireland, France and Spain, United States and Ireland. Proof that good film making is universal.


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