One look at the credits of short drama Netherland Dwarf should have fans of the recent resurgence in Australian cinema (in both the short & feature categories) eagerly clicking the play button with fevered anticipation. Directed by David Michôd, the man responsible for helming Crossbow and Animal Kingdom and taking writing duties on I Love Sarah Jane, Spider and Hesher and starring Ewen Leslie (Apricot, Sleeping Beauty), Netherland Dwarf is a short of undoubtable quality and pedigree.
Harry really wants a rabbit. Harry’s dad really wants his wife back. And somehow in the middle of all this wanting, they both seem to have forgotten that they already have each other.
With the basis of the story formed around the simple premise of a young boys obsession with rabbits and a family struggling in the absence of a maternal figure, Michôd has certainly opted for a less is more approach with Netherland Dwarf. Although the short lacks the impact of Michôd’s previous work, there is a certain level of restraint on show, with the director relying on strong performances and character development to hook viewers and build intrigue. As the father and son at the centre of the story, Leslie and young debutant Jack Egan show a real tenderness and fragility on screen and you can’t help but empathize with their “mountain out of a molehill” situation . Egan in particular seems to perfectly embody childhood innocence and his portrayal of the infatuated Harry is not only pitch perfect and utterly believable, but a little heart breaking too.
Originally created as a tribute to the director’s old rabbit Stampy, Netherland Dwarf was an opportunity for Michôd to create something he described as “simple, sweet, sad and beautiful”, following the bleakness of previous short Crossbow. Whilst lacking the shock of Spider and the oddness of Crossbow, Netherland Dwarf proves once again that sometimes all you need is a hint of emotional resonance to make a captivating and moving short.