Writer-director Christen Carter’s How to Make Shepherd’s Pie shows the power of short films to tell stories without feeling like it really wants to one day grow up and be a feature film.
Carla (Ferelith Young) is a woman who has seemingly reached the end of the road in her marriage and, for that matter, her life. Her husband, Ben (Joel Kelley Dauten), left quietly in the early morning to go fishing with his buddy. So Carla decides to spice things up and prepare Ben’s favorite meal, Shepherd’s Pie, making a few updates in the process.
As the story progresses, hints are dropped that Carla and Ben have been drifting apart for some time. A young checkout clerk wonders if Ben got employee of the month, the couple next door prepares for an evening of cards, and Ben is frustrated that his beer isn’t cold enough for his buddy. Then, to add to the pain, Carla receives a mysterious letter in the mail.
“…Carla decides to spice things up and prepare Ben’s favorite meal, Shepherd’s Pie, making a few updates in the process.”
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie is a story of subtext. Carter’s story is simple, Carla sets out to make her husband’s favorite meal, and she decides to add a few updates to the family recipe. But underlying this simple meal prep is the slow deterioration of her marriage and life in return.
Ferelith Young beautifully plays Carla, and you’re there on her steady downward slope. Each minor event in the film sends her deeper into depression. Then an incident occurs in the kitchen that just brilliantly sends Carla over the edge. Then there’s the letter, and I’m baffled by its existence. I’m not sure of its role in the story, but I’m still thinking about it.
Christen Carter’s How to Make Shepherd’s Pie shows how the storytelling in short films can be far superior and more effective than in feature-length titles. The movie is a study of a single person, and Carter relies solely on Young’s performance to tell a very complex story.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie is playing at the Los Angeles Short International Film Festival.
"…the storytelling in short films can be far superior and more effective than in feature-length titles."