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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dustin Cook's "Mother & Brother" A Bleak Slice of Real Life and a Must See Drama Short

"MOTHER & BROTHER" (2015)
Genre: Drama
Length- 16:48
Company: Malt Shop
Website: Dustin Cook

Mother (Lisa Goodman) is dying, and it's left to her eldest son (Laurence Fuller) to care for her until the inevitable happens.  It's a seemingly unending string of long nights and even longer days, of bathing and feeding and sleeping.

Meanwhile, the son's younger brother (Clint Napier) is getting married to Annabelle (Ashley Hayes), who neither Mother or son likes.  Then, the younger brother is going on a honeymoon in Mexico.

It's unfortunate timing, particularly considering the venemous way Mother has learned to control her household.

BLEAK SILENCE

"Mother & Brother" is the brainchild of first time writer/director Dustin Cook, and his mature visual style is lent impressive wings by the work of Director of Photography Todd Bell.  The outdoor scenes are gorgeous, particularly when Fuller is on his own two thirds of the way through the film.  In that sequence, Cook and Bell paint the onscreen activity in broad strokes, lending an almost impressionistic air to the proceedings for a truly inspired -- and dark -- montage.

It's no wonder that it won Best Dramatic Short at the Arizona International Film Festival -- what we have here is a film that looks great, sounds great, and actually has something to say.

ILLUMINATION

This short film is also longer than many others.  Despite being sixteen minutes and having little overt action, it's never dull, never repetitive.  For the first few minutes, you wonder what's going on -- why are Mother and the son so unsupportive of the younger brother's impending wedding?

One of my favorite moments of this film is when we shift perspectives.  At first, we think the younger brother and Annabelle are the leads in the film, but that responsibility is passed off to the older brother -- kind of like the day to day caring for Mother in general.  Once we walk a while in his shoes, we can appreciate why he is less than excited for his brother: he sees it as his brother's escape from Mother and her illness.

They both realize, though it remains unspoken, that they must break away from Mother's control.

CONCLUSION

It's not a pleasant picture they ultimately leave us with, but it doesn't have to be because what we wind up with at the end of the film is truth.  It's part of being human -- everybody goes through this eventually.  Everybody makes their own road through life.

It's worth saying too that the conclusion that's drawn here took some guts to put on film.  I can already see the kinds of reactions that people are going to have when they see what happens, but for this reviewer, it nailed the point home with surprising force considering how "Mother & Brother" is otherwise so peaceful and quiet.

I am proud to announce as well that "Mother & Brother" is our second official Forest City Short Film Review MUST SEE SHORT FILM OF 2015!  While this film is touring festivals right now, as soon as it is available to watch online or purchase, we will post links to do so.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 4 / 5.  The dialogue in this film is center stage, and rightfully so.  Mother's horrible, partially veiled insults cut to the bone.  The relationship between the brothers feels authentic, and their yearning for freedom is portrayed in an intense and intimate way.  The younger brother's decision toward the finale seems a bit out of left field, but once I saw where Cook was going with it, it made sense and did not detract from my viewing experience.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Beautifully shot, even in the most mundane of locations.  Cook and Bell create an intoxicating web of yearning, depression and missed opportunities -- all visually.
Editing: 5 / 5.  Colorist Jeremy Ian Thomas favored vivid blues, pinks and browns for the look of the film and it makes the film that much more bleak and introspective.  Cook and Taylor Harrington took on editorial duties.  Shot to shot transitions were near perfect, without ever taking me out of the film.  All in all, this film could and should go theatrical, and a healthy amount of credit has got to be paid to all those involved in piecing this film together in the editing room.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Loved the subtlety of the acoustic guitar.  I didn't see who was responsible for the music, but I much enjoyed it and hope I can get some MP3's at some point because it was that good.  The sound design by Gypsy Sound as a whole was effective, with the entire film's volume balanced nicely.
Acting: 4.5 / 5.  "Mother & Brother" is one of the best acted short films I've seen all year.  Fuller, Napier and Goodman in particular were an incredible trio, playing off one another with realistic family dynamics.  The performances in this short film are uncomfortable, touching, and somehow inspiring -- which is also a great way to sum up the film as a whole.

Final Grade: 4.3 / 5.  

Follow Dustin Cook on Twitter and star Laurence Fuller on Facebook because you DO NOT want to miss this one!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!