Love Is Just A Death Away

A beautiful little animated short about a wee grub finding another like itself to love and grow.

The film manages to be surprisingly beautiful despite being quite gross, and surprisingly tender despite being quite morbid. The grub inhabits the corpse of a decaying dog, like some kind of Pickle Rick. He lives in a garbage dump, and tries to make friends with the other animals there, a junkyard dog, an injured bird, a scavenging rat. Alas, they are either scared off or killed by his touch. Inhabiting a rotting corpse has its downsides.

The wee grub gazes up at an eclipse of moths, dancing together against the pinks and blues of the beautiful sky. His loneliness and yearning is palpable.

Things go from bad to worse, as the corpse deteriorates into a skeleton, leaving the grub vulnerable to the dangers of the garbage dump. Just when all hope looks lost, the injured bird returns, now dead but animated by a grub of its own. Together they make a connection, join, and grow into the magnificent moths they were destined to become.

Really sweet.

Hungry Joe

Hungry Joe is a short horror film about a mother whose son’s appetite knows no cessation.

The film starts with Laura, happy with her husband in a new home with a new baby on the way, but that quickly changes once her son arrives. He screams constantly, needs fed nonstop, and has chewed her breasts until they are bruised and bloody. When Laura raises her difficulty with the health visitor, she is immediately shut down with shame, that she must put in the effort to breastfeed him, it’s the best for the baby so she is selfish if she wants to stop, and it is important for bonding, as though any complaint about the process must be some unnatural rejection of her motherhood entirely. The sense of failure and shame instilled in her as a new mother is all too recognisable.

Then, as he grows, she is unable to keep up with his demand for food. Her husband has left her, and she struggles with the financial burden of feeding Joe. She has to turn to food banks to cope with his ravenous demand. When the school draws her in, it is to accuse her of neglect, as Joe always seems underfed and desperately hungry at school. To her disgust, she finds he has started to eat out the bins. The school say they have no option but to refer her to the social to be investigated as an unfit parent.

When he has grown into adolescence, he no longer goes to school, but is almost entirely confined to the house. Neighbourhood cats are going missing, and Joe seems to be creeping out to catch and feast upon live animals at night. He has become a local legend, and children dare each other to post rotting food through his letter box. The kids sing, “Hungry Joe! Hungry Joe!”

Laura too almost never leaves the house. They are pariahs. Having exhausted avenues for help with medical and social services, and met with nothing but condemnation, she faces the prospect of being chained to Joe for life. She dreams at night of throwing him into a fire as a baby, and while waking hopes he will one day choke. Finally at the end of her tether, she kills herself.

And so Joe comes full circle. He consumed his mother’s body to build his own, fed from it insatiably through infancy, and upon her death, he devours her entirely.

Cool idea, perhaps imperfectly executed. I feel it could have been shorter, tighter, with less repetition.

One thing, if you have an eating disorder, this might not be the film for you. I mean, I know that’s obvious from the everything of the plot, but actually there is one particular aspect I found quite effecting. The foley is superb, and perfectly conveys the horror of eating. Like, every scene where Joe or anyone else was eating, I just wanted to close my eyes and cover my ears, coz the sound of it is just unbearably gross. Take it from me.

A Safe Place While It’s Raining

A Safe Place While It’s Raining is a short film encompassing a conversation between a brother and sister.

It’s clear the talk takes place after the loss of their last parent. They discuss their mother’s illness and how they coped. It has the air of exhaustion, like a quiet and intimate time after the rigours of the most intense and public parts of grief. I imagine the sister climbing under the covers of her mother’s bed at the end of a very long funeral tea, and her brother coming to find her after the final guests are gone.

Underneath what they are saying seems to be a tentativeness, like they are checking with each other, after this devastating loss, that they are still a family. The brother’s tone is slightly coaxing, slightly comforting, but the biggest kindness is that neither one asks the other to leave the canopy of their mother’s blanket.

As the rain starts to fall outside, the sound is muffled behind the glass, beneath the bedding, to the point where even it can sound comforting.

Father (Vader)

Father is a short film about a father-son relationship. Jacinto picks up his teenage son Shakur for a long weekend break by the seaside.

The film is full of the quite mundane, standard parental activities, like buying Shakur a new tracksuit, and asking how he’s getting on in school, along with the dreich holiday classics of playing chess and going ten pin bowling. When you are a kid you always roll your eyes at how your parents get so invested in such rinkydink shit. It’s only when you grow up you realise that most things in this world have teeth and sharp edges, and this rinkydink shit is probably the last truly, harmlessly nice things you’ll do together.

Shakur doesn’t seem to be the kind of sullen wean I was. He seems genuinely pleased to be spending time with his father, even if his demeanour is not overly animated. You get the sense that he places as much value on his time with his father as his father does with him.

From the outset, you are told that Shakur doesn’t live with his father, and despite his fierce love, Jacinto has only seen his son sporadically. Throughout the film, Jacinto phones his girlfriend in the evening to keep in touch, and she asks how their day has been. At the end of the film, Jacinto talks to her about what it was like when social work came and took Shakur away. Without going into detail about the cause, he just talks sadly about how everything felt out of his control back then. That the worst thing about it was not being in control of whether you saw your kid or not, like for this trip, having to ask the social if you can take your kid to the seaside for the weekend and have them tell you they’d check and make sure it was convenient for the foster parents, then let you know.

Whatever has happened in the past, it’s obvious from the trip that both the father and the son want to have a relationship with one another, and are willing to put in the time and vulnerability to make it happen.

Heartwarming wee film.

Welcome to the Ball

Welcome to the Ball is a beautiful short film about a kid, Sean, who is not concerned about gender norms, who makes friends with a young deaf kid. A totally joyful wee film about making a connection.

The film starts with Sean delivering bed sheet dress realness and voguing in front of their teddy bears. Sean is played by child star drag queen Lactatia, from Drag Kids, so you know she’s delivering the goods. After dinner with their supportive and friendly butch mum, Sean stays up learning sign language online.

The next morning Sean approaches another kid playing with a Barbie. Slowly, Sean introduces themselves in ASL. The kid says their name is Noah, and when Sean invites them to come play back at their house, Noah jumps at the chance. There, they play dress up, with Sean putting lipstick on Noah. Without music, they start to dance, whirling around together and laughing.

As the film closes, the perspective switches to Noah. In the silence of their world, as they spin around in the colour and joy of Sean’s room, all you can hear is the sound of their heart beat. And as they gaze at Sean, you hear their heart beat quicken, with that first gentle childhood connection.

Great wee film.

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