Penny Sucker feat. James Paxton by Erin Elders

After the death of his mother, a young man struggles to connect with friends and family while revealing an odd coping mechanism.

Clint is a young teen who has recently — and unexpectedly — lost his mother. Struggling to connect with the people around him, he develops an odd way of coping with his immense sadness. But its discovery also offers a beautiful moment of grace and understanding that helps him come to terms with his loss.

For many, grief is an unknown hinterland of emotion, and most won’t know how they’ll cross it until confronted with its reality. Director Erin Elders has crafted a subtle, well-scripted short drama that shows how the raw desolation of loss can express itself in quiet, private, idiosyncratic ways — and how compassion and connection can seep through the cracks.

The film’s overall tone is contemplative, and focused on the internal experience of its main character. The camera achieves a quiet intimacy with Clint, played by actor James Paxton of “Eyewitness,” who gives an elegantly restrained performance of someone trying to hide from his life in plain sight.

The framing stays close on Clint, emphasizing his discomfort in his world through tight, off-center angles. But as Clint begins to emerge, the visual world of the film opens up and breathes, mirroring his emotional journey from tightly coiled loss into connection.

Shot in the almost mythic Joshua Tree area, “Penny Sucker” rewards attention and patience, offering a gentle, unique and yet universal story of someone struggling with heavy, intense loss. But through honesty and vulnerability, he finds his way out of the darkness into light — an arc nearly everyone confronts in life, at one point or another.

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