By Meloni Poole | Drama
A young girl confronts her bullies with the help of her horse.

Mae is a quiet student at a high school in Sheffield, England, where her classmate Heather and her crew tease and pick on her. Already introverted, she retreats into her own head and stops talking to her family and the people around her. She only feels safe and secure when she is with her beloved horse, going so far as to wear a horse mask at dinnertime with her family.

As her school show-and-tell approaches, Mae decides to stand up for herself — not by fighting or getting revenge, but by sharing the most precious part of her inner sanctum to the world at large.

Writer-director Meloni Poole’s captivating short drama falls easily into the children’s or family film genre, but it has an aesthetic elegance and stateliness that elevates it beyond “cutesy” territory, with lyrical images and editing taking us into the quiet, enchanted inner world of its protagonist.

The visuals have a beautiful, often ethereal quality to them, infused with golden light and subtle, graceful movement that recalls filmmakers like Terrence Malick or Sofia Coppola. The approach eschews standard continuity shooting and editing, instead, focusing on small, evocative details and sounds that imbue a sensuousness to the storytelling, making it a textured, immersive experience of sights and sounds as much as a compelling plotline about a relevant contemporary issue.

With such a strong focus on the poetic and sensuous — and immersion into how Mae experiences the world as much as what happens to her — character and story are constructed differently from a straightforward narrative. They’re not afterthoughts, but the audience’s connection to them is a slower burn, though the structure of the narrative is actually quite sturdy, with new information and tension offered with each step, and the performances natural and unaffected. The story elements unfurl over the stream of lovely images and sounds, until they hit with a particular intimacy and sweetness, landing in an ending that feels true to Mae and her values and deeply affecting for the audience.

Inspired by the director’s own personal experiences, “Trigga” is notable for its thoughtfulness, delicacy of touch and bucolic visual beauty. It never veers into melodrama, instead, trusting that its audience will float with its images and sounds into Mae’s inner world. Her triumph is that she doesn’t have to change her fundamental nature to stand up to her tormentors, and she refuses to stoop to their level. Instead, she stands up for herself on her own terms, in the fullness of who she is and what she values — and commanding her own self-respect, as well as the respect of others, as she does so.

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