when Cass, a young mother, brings her nine-year-old daughter Hailey to her workplace – a large house in the privileged neighborhood of town – an interaction with a teenage girl will turn into a defining moment in her understanding of their social standing. With Rips, Writer/director Major Dorfman crafts a beautiful mother/daughter relationship on the canvas of a coming-of-age narrative. Simple, yet effective, the film possesses an undeniable authenticity that makes it both charming and emotionally compelling.
Discussing the origins of his story, Dorfman shared insights into his “sleepy Massachusetts” hometown, explaining that within its borders you will find fancy neighborhoods, filled with mansions, close to neighborhoods with section 8 housing. Explaining that he felt compelled to tell the story of someone whose routine was “to walk from one neighborhood to the other”, as he began to develop his characters he started thinking about the motivations behind this daily journey. What were the challenges and what was it like bringing someone along, with a childlike innocence, who doesn’t perceive the differences between the two areas. Made during Covid, Dorfman also revealed that he was feeling “creatively restless” and so Rips was the outcome of that urge to make something.
Class divide, seen from the perspective of the children of employer and employee, is hardly a new topic, especially when one adult is the other’s housekeeper. Where Dorfman sets his film apart, is that he focuses on the mother/daughter relationship, and how that one confrontation changes everything. The film begins with Cass doing everything she can for her daughter, and by the end it’s actually Hailey, who processed everything much quicker than the wealthy family’s older daughter, that we see protecting her mom with her humor. This change in dynamic wrapping the film on such a hopeful and positive note.
Dorfman makes sure that class divide is very much present on screen from the very beginning, and while Cass is aware of it, she successfully shelters daughter Hailey from it – making the confrontation all the more emotionally explosive. With the director, who also edited the film, managing to keep the runtime under thirteen minutes, it’s impressive how he finds the time to allow Aarón Trujillo’s camera to capture emotional reactions and give the actors the space to realistically convey how they process what they are facing. We get to spend just enough time with them to get to know them, and root for them.
Given how simple the premise is, and how it’s more of an emotional journey than a narrative full of twists and turns, performances are paramount in the success of the film. With almost no exposition, the four actresses do an excellent job in creating a dynamic where you can really sense the history of their relationship. However, as the central mother/daughter pair, Taylor Karin (Cass) and Julia Strafella (Hailey) are remarkable as a family unit. While Dorfman explained that there was already a bond between the two (Karin was actually nannying Strafella), he spent a lot of time developing the character with the younger actress, allowing her to find herself in it and make it hers. Ultimately, it’s the strength of their bond that makes Rips such an emotional watch, as their connection feels palpable and their relationship totally believable.
Rips premiered at festivals in the 2022/2023 season, where it was awarded the Jury Award for Best Dramatic Short at the 2023 edition of the Woods Hole Film Festival, before debuting online with us. Dorfman has already completed a new short film, Classmates, that has begun its festival run, premiering at the 2023 Hamptons International Film Festival. He is now currently working on his next photography exhibition, while also developing his first feature, centered on a father-son story set in Martha’s Vineyard.