Ave Maria. Director: Basil Khalil. Country: Palestine/France/Germany. As always seems to be the case with the live action short film nominations, the choices are on much firmer ground than the animated shorts. This 15-minute culture/religion clash quietly droll comedy is actually one of the most charming films I’ve seen recently. What happens when an Israeli family (complete with irritable and irritating mother) wreck their car by crashing into the Virgin Mary statue at a convent of five nuns in Palestine? To make it more fun, the convent is a silent order. And to complicate matters further, the sun has gone down, it’s the Sabbath and none of the family’s Orthodox friends will take his calls. A special little movie, and I’d be perfectly cool with it winning.
Day One. Director Henry Hughes. Country: US. Beware of any film “inspired by a true story” and Day One is no exception. Oh, it’s competently made and I’m sure well-intended, but this story about a translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit in Afghanistan feels contrived and just a little too conveniently plotted. It’s certainly not bad and it’s well-acted, but it all felt like it was clicking into place with just too much precision — and I was a step ahead of it at every turn. It’s not that I’m that sharp. It’s that the film is that transparent.
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut). Director: Patrick Vollrath. Country: Germany/Austria. At 30 minutes, Everything Will Be Okay is a classic case of a movie that overstays its welcome. The film opens strongly with a divorced father (Simon Schwartz) picking up his daughter (Julia Pointner) for their bi-weekly visit. The set-up is good and accomplished with great economy, establishing the enmity between the divorced parents with barely a word. Then the plot kicks in and every aspect of it takes too long — especially because it’s nowhere near as mysterious as it thinks it is — and this gets worse as complications set in. I was ready for it to end long before it did.
Shok (Friend). Director: Jamie Donoughue. Country: UK. Jamie Donoughue’s Shok (Friend) is a pretty powerful little film that has the slight misfortune of feeling a little out of its time, but that may not be a bad thing. Though the events in Kosovo aren’t big news any more, that doesn’t make them irrelevant. In fact, it’s probably good to remember them through this tragic little story about the friendship of two young boys in the war-torn region divided by religion and race. Unlike Everything Will Be Okay and Day One, this is a film that is fully as weighty as its subject.
Stutterer. Director: Benjamin Cleary. Country: UK/Ireland. Benjamin Cleary’s tight (12 minutes) little romantic drama — about a young man, Greenwood (Matthew Needham), whose severe stuttering has caused him to largely withdraw from the world — gets my vote for the best of the lot. There are only two exceptions to his solitary existence — his father (Eric Richard) and an online relationship with a girl named Ellie (Chloe Pirrie). All that’s about to change, however, since it turns out that Ellie is going to be in London and wants to meet Greenwood and perhaps take the relationship to the next level. But Ellie only knows him as the well-spoken young man at a keyboard. She has no idea that even though he can conjure eloquent, even beautiful, thoughts in his head, there’s not the slightest chance he can ever articulate them. It’s a very real quandary, since he wants nothing more than to meet her. Yes, there’s about an even chance you’ll guess the ending, but that doesn’t keep the film from being sweet and charming.