Denial. One of humanity’s most powerful coping mechanisms. After all, we live in denial about our appearance, our relationships and our health, so that we can feel joy on the path to our inevitable death. Cinematographer David Rusanow demonstrates just how vital this survival tool can be, in his sharp directorial debut MOTHER. Inspired by a short comic book by Chris Gooch, the 13-minute short shines with flair and compositional brilliance and offers a darkly humorous critique, sold with conviction, by the excellent performances. In fact, there was so much to love, we only wish there was more of it.
MOTHER is the story of a suburban housewife who finds a used condom under the sofa, whilst cleaning. Faced with the offending object, Julie makes it her unpleasant mission to find out whether it belongs to her 15 year old daughter or her husband. The film is loaded with subtle humour, but Rusanow manages to dig deeper and find something poetic and humane too. The result is bittersweet – sweet because you’ll be glad you’re not in Julie’s rather sticky situation, and bitter because you will relate to it more than you’d like to admit.
“I mainly work as a Cinematographer” – Rusanow shared with us, “and wanted to sink my teeth into a bit more directing. I’d been searching for something to make for a while and really wanted to do an adaptation, when I found Chris’ comic I was certain it had to be made into a short. I was also drawn into the extremely dark humour lurking under the surface.”
Rusanow both shot and directed MOTHER, a challenging task for any filmmaker, but one which has certainly paid off. The director’s experience as a cinematographer has to be held accountable for the meticulous composition, and by relying almost entirely on natural light, the film achieves visual sophistication we rarely see in short films. With its soft rosy colour, decorated with delicate droplets reflecting the sunlight, Rusanow has somehow managed to make even the oozing condom look grotesquely beautiful and enticing.
The performances are a real delight to observe. Dana Miltins nails the perfect nuance between neurotic and slightly naive, in her role as Julie. While Chris Connelly, playing husband Peter, manages to appear guilty beyond reasonable doubt one minute and undeniably innocent the next. The characters are fleshed out, charismatic and convincing, deserving of plenty more screen time.
We enjoyed this little mystery and the oddball family dynamics so much, that we were left wishing there was more to untangle at the end of it. Whether this was a flawed or an ingenious directorial decision, we’ll leave for you to decide. What is for certain, however, is that this is intelligent, exciting, effervescent film-making, and a remarkable debut for Rusanow.