As COVID-19 continues to surge across the United States, it is still advised not to go out unless necessary. Quarantine has and will keep on taking its toll on people. Taking away outlets that help relieve stress or a way of maintaining a connection to people and the world leaves many feeling despondent. What happens when that seam holding a person together unravels, but they can’t see their close circle face-to-face? This very real issue is beautifully explored in the short movie, Wrath, written, directed, shot, and scored by Meg Case and Brad Porter.
On the 20th day of quarantine, Emily (Meg Case) is feeling out of sorts. She calls a friend, but they are busy. So, Emily recalls her calming exercise, and this seems to work. The next day though, she’s hearing things and seeing worms everywhere. Though, given that Emily is running a plant nursery (of sorts), the worms can be explained. So, does all of her sensory input have a rational explanation? Is quarantining alone playing tricks on her? Or is a deeper problem happening within Emily?
Case and Porter emphasize the overwhelming atmosphere oppressing Emily via sublime, avant-garde editing, and exquisite sound design. Emily calls the power company, as her electricity went out. The sound of the operator’s voice on the other side mixes with ambient noises of the house, all building to frustration for the already fragile main character. As Emily’s mental well-being becomes more and more in question, shots of a dead mouse, wandering ladybugs, or her lying in a field are frequently inserted to convey her confusion.
“Is quarantining alone playing tricks on her? Or is a deeper problem happening within Emily?”
The filmmakers wisely use the tone, sound, and visuals to inform the audience of just about everything. There is some sparingly used dialogue, mainly when Emily calls someone. Happily, the lines are just as carefully thought through and impressive as the directing, editing, lighting, and sound. As a reminder, all of these elements were done by either Case, Porter, or both. With all that in mind, is it any wonder that the star of Wrath is, well, the star.
Wrath is a showcase of Case’s enormous talents, as she appears in almost every second of the movie. Her performance walks a fine line between appealing and sympathetic versus frustrating and off-putting, all in the best way possible. When she’s “starting at an 8,” to calm herself down, the fact that she’s using these techniques is a good sign. Her dread of going beyond a 4, though, does mean that the audience knows she’s also on the verge of a breakdown. Case makes both elements plausible and understandable.
As the 31 minutes of Wrath were drawing to a close, I was reminded of those in my life that suffer from mental health issues. The film’s expert directing, brilliantly minimalist script, and jaw-dropping lead performance were so effective that it made me want to reach out to those around me and ensure they are okay. For a movie to have that kind of power, all the elements of filmmaking must converge just so, and thanks to Case and Porter’s considerable talents, they do here. Wrath is one of the best shorts of the year.
"…one of the best shorts of the year."