Film review: Break Even collection of shorts is richly rewarding

Filmmakers inspire me. But when I go to a collection of shorts I get nervous. Fortunately, there was little to be nervous about with Break Even, a collection of Canadian shorts at the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival.

A scene from Barefoot directed by Danis GouletAlmost always the programmers put in a film that is an impressionistic collage of lights and colours and sound.  Described as “sublime” or “meditative” or “evocative” it usually flies right over my head and I think ‘this is the work of some film student who is experimenting with some cutting-edge-new / very-retro-old editing process’. I just sigh and feel dumb.

Thankfully this collection of shorts films from across Canada is a richly rewarding and eclectic mix that is as diverse as this nation is. Alternately hilarious and touching, dramatic and bizarre, eyes were riveted to the screen to see the next reflection of ourselves.

Barefoot directed by Danis Goulet – feels like a NFB film at first but packs a punch. Alyssa wants to have a baby. For attention? For affection? For love? Our protagonist is flawed but sympathetic and as her plans ensnare her rather than reward her, we grow concerned and the final images beg – what is to become of her now? Heartbreakingly engaging.

Peach Juice directed by Brain Lye, Callum Paterson & Nathan Gilliss – this quirky stop motion film about a young man visiting his relatives in Australia is a tad indulgent but with a great big heart. A stop-motion erection arrives at an inopportune moment and the awkwardness of puberty is warmly hysterical.

OMG directed by Siobhan Devinea sweet character comedy that manages to stay on the right side of being too cloying. A rebellious young woman comes to stay with her grandma but once there is so engrossed in her phone that real connection and reconciliation (with her Mom) seem unlikely. The film is a little “feel good” and predictable but done with a light and charming touch.

Liar directed by Adam Garnet JonesLiar directed by Adam Garnet Jones – the queer content film I was sent to review was … harrowing. Two older suburban trashy girls decide to enact revenge on behalf of a younger girl who beau broke with her because he is gay. They think he is lying and hunt him down. It was powerfully upsetting and provokes a lot of emotion in only eight minutes.

First Snow directed by Michael Lalancettethis Québécois film has a family in the waiting room of a hospital while estranged dad is in surgery with kidney failure. In a quirky twist of after and four siblings and the ex-wife are suitable donors. So who is going to be? It is a testament to the storytelling that the ending was a whimsical surprise.

Canoejacked directed by Jonathan Williams – a silly story of two felons on the lam who steal a canoe from a ‘canoedist’. Finding themselves trapped on the lake with a naked man while a officer on the shore takes shots at them they form an alliance with surprising results. The production values saved this silly tale from just being a sketch.

Hollow Bones directed by Jose Laurenco – surreal bird heads help tell the story of a couple that have grown apart. Cute, quirky and smart enough to not be too long. 5 minutes.

With Jeff directed by Marie-Ève Justea young mother wants to re-capture the wild side that likely led to the birth of her son. When bad boy Jeff promises another ride on his motorcycle she leaves her son with a DVD and gets dolled up. We judge her and the hope for her and then forgive her. The longest film (15 minutes) in the series – it is from Quebec.

The Worst Day Ever directed by Sophie Jarvis ­– a little boy names Bernard is having a horrible day – EVERYTHING goes wrong! Cuts, expelled, divorce, meteor! It is surreal and bizarre but it is the child actor Jakob Davies who grounds the proceeding into a truth that makes it satisfying.

Thank you Canadian film-makers you were thoughtful and inspirational.

Break Even

Calamity meets tragedy meets comedy in these often hilarious, always enlightening shorts. No further screenings.

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