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The Independent Critic

JoAnn Nordstrom, Maddox Hayward, Jim Garrow, William Le Good
Kalainithan Kalaichelvan
17 Mins.

 "Stella Maris" a Mesmerizing, Unforgettable Short Film 
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"Life and death are God's work, not ours..."

Stella Maris, which is Latin for "Star of the Sea," first showed up in the cinematic world in a 1918 silent motion picture starring Mary Pickford in the story of a "beautiful, crippled girl" cared for by a rich family and shielded from the harsh realities of the world. In this 17-minute short film, writer/director Kalainithan Kalaichelvan tells the story of Eli (Maddox Hayward), the only son of his widowed mother, Lydia (JoAnn Nordstrom), who is walking a journey of both light and darkness as she struggles to prepare for Eli's imminent death. 

Both Pickford's 1918 original and Kalaichelvan's contemporary short film are mesmerizing works of art, cinematic wonders filled with human transparencies and spiritual wonderings and filled to the brim with such a sense of wonder and surrender that the experience of watching both of them is, indeed, a spiritual experience unto itself. 

JoAnn Nordstrom is extraordinary as Lydia, a weathered and worn woman unable to accept the inevitable and yet simply, beautifully dedicated to her only son. Nordstrom's performance is so immersive that I found myself rather shocked when I looked up the credits and saw her true physical appearance. Indeed, she transforms here and we are transformed by her. 

As young Eli, Maddox Hayward gives a mature, disciplined performance that possesses such a sense of peace to it that one could and probably should call it angelic in nature. Jim Garrow, as Father Joseph, and William Le Good, as the Doctor, are both memorable in supporting performances. 

Filmed in black-and-white and lensed to perfection by Caleb White, Stella Maris is a Canadian production that envelopes the viewer in its world and washes over you like a cinematic baptism. Kalaichelvan is also responsible for the film's original music and, indeed, he has created a cohesive work of tonal integrity and emotional honesty that is simply exceptional. 

Quite simply, Stella Maris is one of the best short films I've seen in 2017, a work of grace and simplicity, power and truth that speaks volumes even when it says very little. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic