Best In Class: Our Review Of The Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 08, 2019
Best In Class: Our Review Of The Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

Detainment – 30min
Director – Vincent Lambe

Detainment starts innocently enough, with two young boys frolicking through a shopping mall. And what begins as an ode to childhood’s simple pleasures suddenly takes the darkest of turns.

Detainment is about the infamous James Bulger case which happened in 1993. The case involved two ten-year-old boys apprehended under suspicion of abducting and murdering a toddler. Lambe spends most of the film focused on the police interrogations that occurred afterwards. As if this story wasn’t dark enough, Lambe takes verbatim dialogue from the case’s interview transcripts.

Even at a brisk thirty-minutes, Detainment is a tough watch. Lambe incorporates sombre music and a washed-out colour palette to match the story’s bleak tone. The two child-actors turn in solid performances (one as a bright-eyed mommy’s boy and the other as a stone-cold bully), but there isn’t much here to enjoy for anyone outside of true crime fans.

Fauve – 17min
Director – Jérémy Comte

When Fauve begins, two young boy clown around in an abandoned train, wasting away a summer afternoon. And in an instant, their juvenile game of one-upmanship turns deadly.

Fauve is the most beautifully shot movie in the Live Action Shorts category. The film’s striking compositions alternate between capturing the joys and terrors of youth. Comte makes the world look like a wonderland one minute and a merciless deathtrap the next. Viewers see events unfold through a child’s eyes and by the end, it’s a harrowing experience.

The film highlights the thin line separating a good time from a catastrophe – especially during childhood when we’re at our most reckless. It’s scary to think about how many of our childhood adventures – jumping across rooftops, climbing trees, and games of dare – should have ended in disaster. And once the credits hit this film will leave you wrecked.

Fauve ends with one of cinema’s most stunning shots of the year. Consider that a small consolation after the preceding 17-minutes puts viewers through the emotional ringer.

Fauve Still


Madre – 19min
Director – Rodrigo Sorogoyen

Madre plays out like every parent’s nightmare. While at home in her apartment with her mother, a woman receives a phone call from her six-year-old son. The boy calls his mom after losing his father, and he finds himself alone on a beach with his phone about to die.

Madre owes a debt to Hitchcock thrillers like Rope and Dial M for Murder. The story unfolds during a long, mostly unbroken take, in a confined area, with much of the “action” happening in viewer’s imaginations.

This short is a cinematic manifestation of parental anxieties. Madre makes viewers painfully aware of how little control parents have over their children, and how vulnerable both sides become once they leave each other’s sight.

Marguerite – 19min
Director – Marianne Farley

As a caregiver bathes and applies lotion to an elderly woman, we immediately notice the power imbalance between the two. For Rachel, the nurse, her patient Marguerite is just a small part of a hectic day. But for Marguerite, Rachel is her entire world.

Marguerite captures the feelings of loneliness and isolation that come with growing old. And the film reveals that it’s the regrets of a life not fully lived that haunt us towards the end.

Anchored by two excellent performances, Marguerite is meticulously crafted to give viewers the feels. At 19-minutes long, this powerful short doesn’t waste a single shot. And it operates like a relief pitcher stepping into a game and throwing 100 mph fastballs, hellbent on getting the job done as fast as possible.

A cynic may call this short schmaltzy and predictable, but I prefer to think of it as sentimental and effective.

Marguerite Still


Skin – 20min
Director – Guy Nattiv

Skin is trashier than the family of beer-swilling gun-toting rednecks at the story’s “woke” core.

One night while at a supermarket, a racist white man takes offence to a black man smiling at his son. Threatened by this kind act, the white man calls his gang of friends to brutalize the black man in front of his family. And from here on, the short plays out like one of the Grimm’s fairy tales.

The less said about this short, the better. It takes the concept of an eye for an eye to a twisted blaxploitation movie-level conclusion. It’s a story that addresses complex themes in broad strokes. Skin is so problematic and reductive that it makes Tyler Perry’s Madea flicks seem like they were helmed by Ava DuVernay.


  • Release Date: 2/8/2019
This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
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