Tawny Sorensen and Nabil Vinas
Adapted from Tawny Sorensen's stage play "All of the Elements," The Cat's Cradle follows a couple (played by Sorensen and Nabil Vinas) and their all consuming attempts to conceive. As their attempts become increasingly fruitless, the tensions rise and unspoken thoughts and feelings become revealed.
Winner of Best Short Film at New Jersey International Film Festival and Exceptional Duo/Ensemble Acting at Maine's Sanford International FIlm Festival, The Cat's Cradle is relatively early in its festival life yet has already snagged screenings with at least 14 film fests and claimed five prizes along the way. The film is directed by David Spaltro, whose Things I Don't Understand has been reviewed here at The Independent Critic and also blew up the indie fest circuit.
At a running time of just over 15 minutes, The Cat's Cradle builds its tension quickly as we spy our young couple in the not so romantic throes of some seriously disciplined, some would say overly disciplined, attempts at baby making. There is an underlying tension in these early scenes already, perhaps a tad too much tension as early on I never completely bought into this already stress-filled coupling, yet it's a valuable tension that provides the foundation for everything else that is to unfold over the next few minutes.
Sorensen, rather obviously, comes off practically immersed in this story and how it all unfolds. It makes sense that she created t he original story and stage play and clearly understands even the most intimate aspects of these characters, yet she also possesses a naturalness sort of lights up the screen while also adding a strong emotional element to the film's later scenes.
As the far more baby-obsessed of the two, previous Spaltro collaborator Nabil Vinas has the challenging task of selling an initially rather badgering character while not making us dislike him so much that we disconnect from the film. After all, if you lose the audience in a 15-minute film there's a pretty good chance you're not getting them back. For the most part, Vinas succeeds by never building unnecessarily on the already stress-filled story and dialogue. He pulls back and allows the words to linger in the air rather than punching at them - it's effective, disciplined acting.
The lensing by Gus Sacks is intimate yet also effectively has those moments where he uses framing and the corners of rooms to build a sort of distance between the two characters. It's subtle and effective. Spaltro himself knows how to direct this kind of tension - he's done it before quite effectively and seems to enjoy working with stories about those unspoken places that exist within our human relationships. It's easy to understand why he'd be attracted to Sorensen's original stage work and his insight into the story helps breathe life into a story that we've seen unfold in different ways before.
The Cat's Cradle is a valuable film telling truths and sharing insights in a way that leaves you feeling its words and actions long after the closing credits have rolled. The film continues on the film fest circuit. If you get a chance, check it out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic