Children in jeopardy is the motif running through four of the five Oscar nominees for live-action short this year, which makes one wonder whether there isn’t a certain anxiety in the zeitgeist that caused the Academy to gravitate toward these films. And when one considers that the children under threat and stress are all boys, and men in Hollywood have come under particular pushback for their behavior in the past 18 months… well. (AMPAS membership is around 70 percent male.)
I suspect that Vincent Lambe’s controversial “Detainment” [IMDb|official site] will win. His dramatization of the real-life police interrogations of the two 10-year-old boys who killed a (male) toddler in England in 1993 is profoundly harrowing, and features deeply upsetting performances from its young stars. The mother of the murdered child has called for its nomination to be rescinded, and her pain is understandable, but this is an important examination of an inexplicable horror. And though it has been accused of somehow inappropriately “humanizing” the 10-year-old perpetrators, it only leaves us baffled as to how and why two children could commit such a heinous crime. [watch at Amazon US|Amazon UK|iTunes US|iTunes Can|iTunes UK]
The other nominees:
• “Mother” [IMDb], by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, a grim, bleak slice of terror in which a woman is tethered to her lost little boy by only a dying cell-phone connection.
• “Skin” [IMDb|official site], by Guy Nattiv, in which two young boys, one white and one black, witness a racist clash between their fathers; it’s a bit strained getting to its explosive ending, but its message of children learning what they are taught is well taken. Exciting up-and-comer Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin’) is featured as mother of one of the boys. [watch at Amazon US|Amazon UK|iTunes US|iTunes Can|iTunes UK]
• “Marguerite” [IMDb|official site], by Marianne Farley, the only film not about little boys, is a tender portrait of the relationship between an aging, ill woman and her visiting nurse, and the regret it inspires in the elder.