Directed by: Amanda Spencer
Mae (Tarra Riggs) and her sister Lily (Regina Williams) are living their worst life.
Cooped up in a mobile home, the former spends her days tending for the latter who is suffering with an unmentioned illness that requires popping lots of pills. As the narrative progresses, we learn that plenty of air needs clearing between the sisters, who are both on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
Loaded with pathos and bludgeoning realism, Every Grain of Sand is a short film designed to grip the audience with poignancy. From the creaking noises of the mobile home to the shifting lens focus that obscures characters, the #filmmaking is tinged with tragedy, aimed to immerse the viewer in the stark sadness of the story. And it works spectacularly.
Writers Amanda Spencer and Toby Osborne (the former of whom also directs here) create a rich and bleak tale with Mae and Lily, delivering a story that has solid foundations of family, love, resentment, and pain. They have carved a very believable and relatable narrative and captured it beautifully using an intimate setting and an understated mise en scéne. The mobile home becomes the therapist's couch that these two sisters need before they can break free into the open air of the real world.
Tarra Riggs is formidable as the beleaguered sibling, destined to care for her ailing sister at the sacrifice of her own personal freedom and career. The bubbling rage and passionate displays are superbly delivered in what is an exceptional performance. Regina Williams is great as the guilt-ridden Lily, whose poor choices and lack of vitality make her the vulnerable sister in need of care.
There were some technical issues with Every Grain of Sand. Riggs' audio was quiet at times and some of the framing felt clunky or difficult to follow. However, the major victories for this short film more than outweigh the minor shortcomings.
Thematically, the movie touched on plenty of interesting and emotive topics. The carers genre is a potent one, and this short reminded me of other great pieces such as Nicholas Connor's impactful short Cotton Wool, or Andrea Niada's documentary How We Are Now. The human elements are so riveting when watching the characters cope with the turmoil brought on by serious health issues. When forced to consider the life and death of a loved one, a serious truth emerges and it is incredibly difficult for people to keep their "happy face" intact, as shown by Mae screaming into a towel.
Aside from a little rough around the edges aspects to the filmmaking, Every Grain of Sand is a crushing and wholly compelling drama packed with two brilliant performances.
Watch the official movie trailer below.