Devastating, just totally and utterly devastating, that is perhaps the only way to describe P.J. Palmer’s North Star. Colman Domingo astounds in one of this year’s best short films.
Director: P.J. Palmer
Cast: Colman Domingo, Audrey Wasilewski , Malcolm Gets, Kevin Bacon
Synopsis: A rural rancher and his ailing husband, struggling against poverty and isolation, make a heartbreaking decision in order to preserve the dignity of their marriage.
The opening third of North Star is practically wordless, yet far more is said on screen than many other films could dream of conveying, such is its power. James (Colman Domingo) goes through his daily routine of looking after his husband Craig (Malcolm Gets). It is a scene that is all too familiar for those who care for loved ones who are in a similar position. Nevertheless, Domingo gets this spot on with him and shows increased intimacy that makes you want to look away. For we are prying on moments we should not be seen; we have peeped behind the most private of curtains.
We see a couple at their most fragile, physically for Craig but mentally for James. You see it in his face and body; he is tired, drained from the daily efforts of looking after the man he loves. However, you also see how willing he is to do this. He wants Craig to be as comfortable as possible and will do all he can to ensure that is the case. As he bathes his ailing husband and blows some smoke from his cigarette for Craig to smell, you realise how tender their relationship is.
Both actors give their all to their roles; Domingo is at his best in North Star, showing us a tenderness to the rugged rancher that we rarely see. He is falling apart internally, sacrificing and surrendering parts of his life and, in truth, his future of this distant ranch to make sure Craig is as okay as he can be. You will easily find yourself with your move open agape at the honesty and strength in his performance.
Equally, Gets has the hard task of portraying someone in his situation, and while it could be easy just to do the minimum, his wordless performance wrecks you. Craig is a man trapped within himself, knowing his future and life are grim. He will be able to see the pain this is causing the man he loves and even the pain his sister is trying and failing to hide. He wants to do so much but can’t, and you can tell that just by what he does on his face. It is honestly remarkable the chemistry he and Domingo have, considering their characters’ positions.
The last person in our fantastic performance trio is Craig’s Christian sister Erin (Audrey Wasilewski). She has the unenviable task of being as close to an antagonist as North Star gets. She loves her brother and cares for James, but she simply cannot accept their romantic situation due to her religion. It could be very easy to push an agenda on her character, yet her thoughts on their relationship are merely one aspect of her character. She wants Craig to be near her so she can look after him, to be near his family in his final period alive. So when she sees what James is doing to pay for Craig’s medicine, it destroys her.
She sees what this is doing to the family ranch, to James, and she can never connect the way she probably wants to with James. Their raw moment shows how great an actor Wasilewski is. Couple that with her final moment with Craig, and you realise how well-written, acted and directed Erin is. You may not like her and her views, but damn if you still don’t feel for her and anyone in this situation.
Raw is what comes to mind when thinking about North Star; we see the raw love between the two partners, the raw strain of caring for someone in need and the friction that causes between a partner and the family of the said ailing person. P.J. Palmer has done something truly remarkable with his latest film. I would honestly love to see more from he is a filmmaker, and fingers crossed we do as this is a special film and if he can make things like this. Then we really need to see more of what he can do.
North Star is as heartbreaking a film as you will see, feature-length or short. It doesn’t matter; this is astounding cinema and shows that no matter the length of a film, if there is a good story and fantastic acting that has you gripped and full of emotion, it can only be a winner. Watch this film when you can. I will honestly be shocked if you do not hear more about it in the future. It is tremendous.
The annual Academy Awards® Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival will celebrate its 18th year August 11-20, 2022. HollyShorts (HSFF) brings together top creators, industry leaders, and companies and has launched many filmmakers into the next stages of their careers. HollyShorts, a regular on the MovieMaker Magazine Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee list, also engages its community and spotlights short films year-round through monthly screenings, panels, and networking events.
The most recent edition of HollyShorts had six selections nominated for Academy Awards this year with two wins for Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed’s The Long Goodbye and Ben Proudfoot’s Queen of Basketball.
HollyShorts Film Festival will take place in-person at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, and stream via Bitpix TV, with the annual Awards Gala set to take place on August 20, 2022.
For tickets to the festival please click here.
For more of our reviews of the festival, please check out below:
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