★★★★ Directed by: Alexander Williams Written by: Alexander Williams Starring: Melanie Stevens, Gareth Watkins, Catrin Mara Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
A sombre and absorbing short drama from filmmaker Alexander Williams, Cari is a tale of disturbed identity, familial tension, and acceptance.
Melanie Stevens plays the titular Cari, a young woman who we meet at the beginning of the short film experiencing traumatic nightmares. Initially receiving comfort from her loving mother (Catrin Mara) and farmer father (Gareth Watkins), the family home is soon awash with a troubled tension when Cari reveals a secret part of her identity.
As an LGBT coming-out coming-of-age parable, there is a lot of familiarity in Cari. Many of the themes and issues have been explored, in greater depth, by many other filmmakers, but what Williams brings to the table is a wonderful cohesion of broiling emotions from all characters in a way which is tenderly captivating.
As the conflict of the story is introduced, it is beautiful to witness the transformation in each character. Cari feeling both relieved and grieved to have her secret out, her mum caught between her maternal instincts and matrimonial duties, and her father being bludgeoned by his daughter’s revelation which strikes his traditional values. Throw into the mix the not exactly incognito religious paraphernalia and the glorious natural landscapes and you have a short film packing one hell of a thematic punch.
Tackling a sensitive topic such as this requires some incredible performing talent to do it justice, and Cari has just that. Melanie Stevens is a terrific lead, in particular during her character’s more spiritual sequences. Gareth Watkins is excellent as the stubborn father, playing him as believably frustrated rather than cartoonishly backward, which could have just as easily been the case. But it is Catrin Mara who steals each scene she is in, delivering a memorable and affecting turn as the protective mother. There is a particularly immense scene where she first finds out about Cari’s secret which was so wonderfully performed.
As mentioned, there is some glorious landscape shots in this short film, hats off to DoP Nick Perry who assimilates the natural beauty with the story’s tone expertly. There was also a splendid piano intro to the piece which suited the pathos which becomes an intrinsic part of the atmosphere, which is then enhanced by Williams’s choice to deliver his story in black and white. Any short film that turns up in black and white will immediately get inspected for motive, here, unlike many other filmmakers that choose to for aesthetic reasons, the loss of colour in the movie feels purposeful. For me, it felt like the family members and homestead were one unit, which was at risk of being torn apart by Cari’s revelation, but is ultimately stronger than any one of their identities.
Whatever meaning you decipher from Cari, audiences will enjoy the appealing aesthetic, the gripping performances, the affecting themes, and the smart combination of all three.
Watch the official movie trailer for Cari below...