Cornflower

By Sam Evoy | Drama
A young man discovers his father's body and tries to protect his sister from the truth.

Ladle is a young man going about his typical morning routine, listening to music and cleaning up the cat's litterbox, on a sunny, ordinary day. But when he takes out the litter outside, he discovers the body of one of his family's members, having killed themselves earlier that day.

As he processes the event, he realizes he must also be the one to inform his much younger kid sister Juliette. (They share the same father, but have different mothers.) But delivering that news is an emotional high-wire act, one where he must convey the big changes in their life without actually telling her the difficult truth.

Written and directed by Sam Evoy, this subtle, poignant short drama handles its tragedy with a delicate touch, neither minimizing the act of suicide nor exploiting it for heavy dramatic emotion. The register of the film is quiet, with striking and composed images that linger in duration, letting details and emotions play in and out. The atmosphere of the film is still, but it's not tranquil: instead, it's the airlessness and isolation of those left behind in a tragedy. But there are also abrupt shifts in the editing from image to image at times, underlining the brother's discombobulation and making for a compelling tension in the storytelling that captures internal experience.

Accordingly, the dialogue of the film is spare, but it allows actor Jeremy Allen White's superb performance to come to the fore. Now starring in FX's series "The Bear," White conveys a deep reservoir of tumultuous emotion with nowhere to go. There's his grief and shock about what has happened, raw, numb and uncomfortable in its newness and yet tucked away as he gets through the moments of daily life. But there's also the responsibility he's suddenly saddled with, to inform Juliette of their parent's death while protecting her from as much trauma as possible.

We understand the delicacy of his dilemma, and the scene where he seeks out his sister at her school to tell her is a masterwork of both the range and limits of human communication. Young actor Carla Oudin works well with White to convey their unique connection as family members, especially in the way they both love and give one another a hard time. As they talk, Ladle constantly evaluates and watches Juliette, gauging how much he can tell her. He protects her from the realities of the traumatic event, instead focusing on the news that they'll be staying at his mother's house going forward. Watching Juliette take in the news, we see the smart, perceptive girl might have a glimmer of something larger happening.

But she's still a young girl, with a fundamental innocence, and the way Ladle protects that innocence is the core of what's moving about "Cornflower," beyond its compassionate, measured portrayal of suicide and its impact on family members left behind. When the unthinkable happens, Ladle chooses not to just protect his sister from the traumatic news, but reminds her of how loved she is, no matter what. That love won't erase the terrible impact that their parent's suicide will have on them. But with luck, it may help carry her through what is sure to be a sad, devastating time waiting for her ahead.




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