Updated: Oct 14, 2018
Written and Directed by Nicholas Connor
Starring Leanne Best, Katie Quinn, Max Vento, Gemma North, Crissy Rock
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Inspired by the thousands of carers in the UK, in particular young carers, Nicholas Connor's short film Cotton Wool is a deeply emotive and humbling watch that manages to combine crippling tragedy with life affirming tenderness.
Turmoil hits this unassuming family when single mother Rachel (Leanne Best) suffers from a debilitating stroke. With only her teenage daughter Jennifer (Katie Quinn) and young son Sam (Max Vento) to look after her, Cotton Wool is a short film that explores the shift in dynamics which occurs when parents stop being protectors and require their children to fill those boots.
Told with sincerity and care, Connor immerses his characters in the central conflict of Jennifer. How she evolves and adapts to the new role she has unwillingly inherited becomes the major plot point for the audience. Quinn handles this with a strong turn that improves markedly in the final third. Donning the stroppy teen guise initially did not really work, coming across flat, in particular during a scrappy scene with her chums. However, later sequences where she faces up to her new responsibilities by being there for her family are well performed.
The highlight of Cotton Wool, though, is Leanne Best. Her showstopper performance as a stroke victim is superb, as is her character's anguished struggle to embrace the nightmarish realisation that she can no longer fend for her kids in the same way. Moments of disturbing psychological torment are well captured, and there is a particular scene of Rachel out of focus on a sofa which was utterly enrapturing.
Gemma North, who plays care worker Liz, is also great. Contributing a great deal of pathos and empathy into her dialogue.
The emotion of the characters and storyline is wonderfully enhanced by a fantastic score by Benjamin Squires. Piano is used particularly well to elicit immense tragedy alongside moving moments of human kindness. The music and use of slow motion was another great example of where Connor balances his elements brilliantly.
Affecting and heartbreaking, Cotton Wool serves as a worthy tribute to the amazing work of carers up and down the UK. The themes of love, tenderness and culpability are expertly judged to accompany a moving story with excellent performances.