By Phil Hall | January 19, 2002

“Cleave” is a sadistic short film about the nasty after-effects of a collapsed marriage. The husband steals his estranged wife’s dog and the entire film consists of her leaving endless answering machine messages which either plead or threaten for the dog’s return. The husband never accepts the calls and spends his time painting and cleaning out his home of all traces that remind him of his wife. Eventually, he brings the dog to an animal control facility and files a false report that the dog bit a neighborhood child, thus dooming the poor canine to be destroyed.
“Cleave” has no artistic merits to justify its mean-spirited story. As the wife, Wendy Salking’s performance is entirely on the soundtrack but she comes across like a second-rate Method actress trying to feign an emotion rather than sounding like a genuinely frayed woman at wit’s end. Jon Jolles is the husband, but his acting consists of playing with the dog and painting his home. The dog (who is not credited) is a delight and it is a shame his agent couldn’t find him a better film.
Of course, if the wife called the police in the first place to report the theft of her dog, there would be no reason for this dreary little picture. But then, can one honestly expect people in bad movies to behave in an intelligent manner?

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