Win: Best Short Film, Live Action - Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage
Watching the nominees for Best Short Film, Live Action in any given year can be a relatively traumatic experience; of the five nominated films, three or four can be counted on to be gut punches of emotion, trying to outdo each other in what horrors they can foist upon the characters. This year's nominees were no exception to this rule, with themes of childbirth in a warzone, the death of a child in another warzone, and the abduction of a child. Between viewing each of these films, I was relieved by the relatively lighthearted "Ave Maria," but was especially grateful for the lovely film "Stutterer" for bringing a sincerity and sweetness not found in any of the other nominated films.
Starring the soulful Matthew Needham, "Stutterer" depicts Greenwood, a young man with the titular speech impediment battling his insecurities to find love. The plot is simple and the lead performance understated, but director Benjamin Cleary introduces emotional and technical complexity in his contrast between the silence of what is depicted and the voiceover of Greenwood's thoughts.
On a personal note, as someone who has battled speech impediments for my entire life, I am used to seeing impediments depicted in a comical and mocking manner on screen. Cleary represents Greenwood's impediment with dignity and respect, neither minimizing the challenges it presents nor mining it for humor or sympathy.
"Stutterer" is a sweet, deceptively simple film that quietly and confidently builds a strong central character through equal parts expertly written voiceover and a lovely collaboration between director and performer.