Love and Loss is a collection of five short-films all dealing with the two titular themes in various and original ways: the loss of memory and its impact on a relationship or the loss of a dog from another dog’s point of view, for example.
Irene & Marie, written and directed by Alex Thompson (Human Resources (TV), Strange Loop (Short)), is the first shot of the collection and deals with friendships and relationships between elderly people of the same Greek Orthodox church.
The titular pair are two best friends whose relationship starts to falter when Irene, Rose Gregorio (ER (TV), The Swimmer) decides to pursue Nick, Louis Zorich (Fiddler On The Roof, Coogan’s Bluff), who’s been flirting with her while his wife is sick at home.
Marie, Olympia Dukakis (Steel Magnolias, Moonstruck), whose own husband, Burt Young (Rocky, Chinatown) is sick as well, thinks both Irene and Nick are wrong in their blossoming relationship.
Through these four characters, the short film manages to depict a beautiful and compassionate look at elderly people seeking love and comfort at a time where loss and pain start taking over their life.
The acting is very good – not surprising with such seasoned actors – and the writing makes us empathize with each character. The cinematography however brings the film down with the use of a very harsh lightning that makes the sets look fake and minimizes the realism and humanity of the subject matter.
Sorry for Your Loss by Bernard Hunt (Kat & Eis (TV), Pet Psychic (TV)) is probably the most conventional shorts out of the five in its way of handling the two themes: Johnna, Olivia Washington (The Butler, Mr Robot (TV)), who recently lost her alcoholic mother, holds a quick memorial for the woman she was never fond of accompanied by two friends of hers (played by Kathryn Dines (Kat & Eis (TV), Pet Psychic (TV)) and Eiseley Tauginas (Kat & Eis (TV), Pet Psychic (TV))) and her brother, Ernest Waddell (Law & Order (TV), The Wire (TV)).
Sorry for Your Loss explores weird ways of mourning, as Johnna and her brother don’t seem to care about the death of their mother, yet Johnna still wants to respect her mother’s last wish and scatter her ashes in a specific spot.
The short is well-shot and quite fun while still resonating emotionally as conflicts arise and Johnna learns a bit more about her mother.
While the premise of exploring relationships during an unconventional mourning is not too original, Sorry for Your Loss still works very well thanks to its tone and good writing.
Calumet, the third short, recalls Irene & Marie to mind, not only because it is also about elderly people and sickness (with, coincidentally, the main female character being called Irene and mentioning a friend of hers called Marie), but also because it is written and directed by the same man, Alex Thompson.
Here though, we follow a loving couple, Irene and Ira (played by Ann Whitney (Home Alone, The Fugitive) and Austin Pendleton (The Muppet Movie, My Cousin Vinny)) through an afternoon in their home when they decide to bake a cake.
Through this simple task of baking, Calumet shows both the intimacy of the couple and their fear of losing what they have as Ira starts having trouble with his memory.
The chemistry between the two actors creates a realistic and touching portrayal of a love that overcame time – it is an especially good choice from Alex Thomson to make us see their relationship through details from their home and moments of intimacy as they go through the familiar task of baking a cake together.
The threat of Alzheimer is revealed to us slowly as it seeps through the story: Ira forgets what seems to be innocuous things until we realize it is more than that.
Like with Irene & Marie, the actors are wonderful and the story very touching, but this time the cinematography by Matt Brown follows suit and complements the film perfectly.
On a completely different note, Unleashed Love is by far the most original of the five films, but also the most amateurish.
Directed by Steven Ritt, it tells the story of a dog mourning its friend – another dog who died from cancer – by showing us the adoption of the late dog and the friendship that blossomed between the two pets, just like a home movie retracing someone’s life.
Home movie is the best way to describe this short film: it looks to have been shot with a phone and edited with a basic editing software (with an abundance of country songs in the background and lots of fade-ins).
The acting (from the two human actors, Joe Silva and Dennis Loveless) is also sub-par, but to their defence they don’t have that much screentime to show off their skills.
This “home movie” esthetic makes the movie both ridiculous and incredibly sincere, depending on how you look at it.
What makes this film stand out is the choice of the dog as the main character: it is a decision that feels like an original exploration of grief (we can assume the owner of the dog suffered just as much from the loss, yet his own grief is barely shown), but also like a cheap trick to tug at the heartstrings of dog lovers.
Because of this, depending on where you fit on the dog-loving spectrum, Unleashed Love could either be seen as a sincere home movie full of heart and empathy for animals or as a cheap and exploitative film.
Peter Jensen (No Deposit, No Return) ends this anthology with Danni, a sharp and serious film about a woman coming out of an abusive relationship and trying to move on from this past relationship of love and hate that still haunts her.
Wonderfully portrayed by Jeana Reilly (who also wrote the script), Danni, the main character is stuck in the past, almost addicted to it: she arrives late to work because she spent the night watching old family movies on an antique film projector, and has difficulties building a future as she rejects the advances of Mike, Don Draxler (The Orchard, Exceed (Short)), a man she clearly likes.
After a day at work and her realization that she could build something with Mike, the man from her past, John (John Moran), reappears in her life, testing her: will she be able to reject him, move past this abusive relationship, or will she fall back into it?
Because Danni is so obsessed with the past, we never know if John is really here with her or just a figment of her imagination, an image her own mind conjured to force a confrontation – and finally move on. This creates an ambiguity that makes the short film captivating.
Its exploration of abusive relationship through a nuanced lens of addiction (Danni wants to move on, but still feels herself attracted to it) is also really well done.
Danni is very well-shot and acted, and ends the collection of short film on a very serious note, but also a great one. Love and Loss is a mix of short films all very different yet all linked by their innovative exploration of these two otherwise very common themes.
Additionally, it showcases great directors and great acting from relatively new or seasoned actors. If you’re interested in short movies, you should definitely find something to like here.