Tonight I saw all five of the nominated films in the Live Action Short category. I'll present my reviews in the order they were shown.
I want to know where Denmark trains their child actors because I have yet to see a weak performance from any of them. In this story, a young child named Alfred is terminally ill. He has a love for balloons—hot air, blimp, etc. so the adults fill his hospital room them to cheer him up. It's not until a hospital worker develops a special bond with Alfred, and makes up a "Helium" heaven that the child is able to accept his tragic fate. Beautifully written and wonderfully acted; a tender reminder of what's important in life.
THE VOORMAN PROBLEM (United Kingdom)
Familiar actors and an unbelievable situation make this lighthearted entry one of the easiest of the nominees to digest. A psychiatrist is sent to a prison to evaluate an insane inmate who thinks he's a God and is forced to confront the fact that he may indeed be one. Brilliant "what if" that reminds us to be careful how we define "crazy."
JUST BEFORE LOSING EVERYTHING (France)
The strongest entry (and my pick for the win) comes from the lengthiest of the nominees, with a 30-minute running time that flies by. A woman is desperate to escape her abusive husband and take her children with her in this race-against-the-clock situation. If this film were a book, it would be one of the best page-turners I've ever read. It conveys the fear, the pain, the shame and the hope associated with such a plot and has you wondering if she'll pull it off right to the very last frame.
THAT WASN'T ME (Spain)
The horrific dangers of the Sierra Leone are magnified in this brutal, violent look at what can (and probably has) happened in one of the most volatile patches of the world. Two humanitarian doctors are taken hostage trying to cross a sensitive border and the torture that follows is unspeakable. The humanity that emerges from the awful situations they endure is what redeems the images in the end. Still, certain parts of this story will be forever burned into my brain and I'm not sure I'm okay with that.
DO I HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING? (Finland)
Women everywhere will cheer and laugh along with this sweet, hilarious take on an over-scheduled family trying to get themselves ready to attend the wedding of their friends. The husband is endearing, the kids are adorable and the mom is—well—super. Delightful romp, without question.