★★★ Written and Directed by: Tim Laubscher Starring: Susie Power, Amilia Stewart, Olivia O’Gorman, Jack Hudson, Joan Thorpe, Oisin De Lange, Emma Claire Long, Dave Corcoran, Tim Laubscher Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
The heartbreaking reality of domestic abuse told from the perspective of a young girl called Ellie (Susie Power). As she narrates the brutal and isolated struggle of her childhood in the face of an abusive step-dad (Tim Laubscher) a powerless mother (Amilia Stewart) and a confused system, a harsh tapestry of social dysfunction reveals itself for the audience.
By presenting his kitchen sink drama with a veneer of emotional cajoling, writer and director Tim Laubscher doesn't so much want to pluck at your heartstrings as to nail them to your forehead. There is nothing subtle about his approach with short film Ellie, and as such the result is both effective and familiar.
Like many of the video appeals one would see in a Children In Need program, Laubscher’s movie takes a heavy-handed approach in delivering his tale of child abuse. All the ingredients are there: the sombre piano score, the close-ups of broken and battered faces, the emotionally charged dialogue made all the most impactful by a child’s voice, the distorted camera angles - one particularly great one was actually from inside a sink (either a happy coincidence or a clever comment on the genre itself).
So why should you watch it? Well, for one his message is an important one that frankly must keep being repeated until it's no longer necessary. Secondly, there are some really smart moments of filmmaking that deserve the attention of the avid viewer. Such as the aforementioned sink shot, or a close up of Ellie’s hands and eyes to frame both her victim hood and her resilience. There was also a poignant thread about the behaviors which Ellie ends up displaying being a direct result of her trauma which serves as a beautiful reminder to be tolerant towards members of our community who may have had a rough time, and who may very well struggle to find a place among people she cannot trust.
There are definitely aspects of this short film which could be improved. The dialogue is quite clunky for Power to read, and it could be argued that the confusing array of adults in Ellie's life could have been better explained for a stronger impact, however, it is this confusion that makes Ellie's suffering all the more harrowing. The performances are generally sturdy, Power is great and Stewart is a particularly wonderful screen presence. Laubscher as the villain felt a little unbelievable, his drug addiction felt cartoonish and his violence lacked fire.
All that being said, a worthy piece on the defenceless victims of domestic abuse from their perspective, with new themes of consequence and disarray being mixed in with the classic ones of helplessness and pathos.
Watch the official movie trailer for Ellie below...