One morning, young Sparrow (Lauren-Brooks Wilson) opens her sock drawer to find two baby mice. Rather than shriek or flee, Sparrow goes about finding a nice box to store the mice, and sets out on her bike with the mice-in-a-box. As she rides along, she stops at various spots, picking up other odds-and-ends until she comes to a rundown shack, which she enters and goes about preparing a table setting for a family dinner of sorts. Only something is off, so she heads home, leaving the baby mice alone. Upon arriving home, the sad truth of her family life is revealed.
L. Gabriel Gonda’s Brightwood is the type of short film that I had to think about quite a bit after it finished. Honestly, while I’m usually pretty good at this sort of thing, I wasn’t sure where the film was going, and it turns on some surprising developments, which left me a bit stunned. Mainly, I was trying to sort out exactly what it all meant, or at least what it was trying to say, which is probably going to stay open for debate long after this review runs.
First off, though, note must be made of how great this film looks. The cinematography is stellar, employing interesting angles and composition to bring that little bit extra to the image. Much like some von Trier films, there are shots in this film that could easily find their place framed on someone’s wall.
Really, across the board in the technical arena, the short is flawless. It’s in the realm of interpretation of the message that the film could gain or lose points, depending on how you look at it. For me, I settled on the belief that the film is a study of family, and how issues at home can inform how a child plays and acts when presented with the opportunity to truly reflect on what it is to have a family of their own.
Sparrow has parents, but the mice, for the most part, do not. Sparrow could do any number of things with the baby mice, but her inclination to take them far away from her house to set up a new, caring home for the three of them (and eventually her brother) says as much about her home life, and her role within that dynamic, as is overtly displayed and explained by the short’s end.
Brightwood is a stunning short film, both in look and content. Regardless of how you interpret it, or whether you think this or that makes sense, the film’s appeal is undeniable.
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