The films that make up Sundance’s Shorts Program II all address issues of basic intimacy and loneliness. Whether telling the story of a homecoming between wife and husband, an unexpected encounter with a stranger, or in one case, the way technology’s interference in everyday life renders a relationship unidentifiable, these young filmmakers are all attempting to understand emotions that still remains mysterious.
Take Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos, and Jessie Ennis’ The Arm, for example. The film begins misleadingly. A narrative that threatens to be about a power struggle between two male teenage friends turns quickly into a darkly humorous depiction of a subject we should probably be taking more seriously – texting while driving. A young couple’s new relationship, which is based completely on texting, is cut short when the girlfriend dies in a car crash because she’s DWD (Driving While Distracted). Though texting distractions are responsible for thousands of deaths each year, the film is still comedic. That’s because there’s honesty to a teenager – or anyone for that matter – being so overly connected to his or her cell phone that showering, eating, even playing baseball while texting seems plausible. So much of the nine-minute short comes across as tongue-in-cheek that it is somewhat difficult to decipher what statement the film is trying to make. But, with its clowns, rabbis, and abrupt, somewhat nonsensical ending, The Arm remains rooted in carefree humor.
From the frenetic world of technology and unformed relationships, we’re thrust into the picturesque, quiet landscape of director Craig Macneill’s realist short Henley. Inspired by a chapter from Clay McLeod Chapman’s novel Miss Corpus, the short follows a 9-year-old boy through his daily routines around the rundown, unvisited motel his father owns. Henley, the eponymous character, spends his day practicing to be the motel’s manager and collecting roadkill (for $ 0.25 a skin) from the narrow stretch of road that seems to be his only connection to the outside world. Henley functions as a beautiful snapshot of a child’s isolation from his father, executed thanks to the expertise of cinematographer Noah Greenberg.
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