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New Boy (#110 of 2)

Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Steph Green’s Run & Jump

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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump
Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump

Born in the U.S., but now dividing her time between Los Angeles and Dublin, director Steph Green was nominated for an Oscar in 2009 for her short film New Boy, a sensitive portrait of a young African lad struggling to settle into a new school in Ireland. The theme of coming to terms with a dramatic life change is once again central in her confident, boldly stylized feature debut Run & Jump.

Set in a picturesque Irish town, the film begins with the return to the family stead of Conor (Edward MacLiam), a 38-year-old carpenter and father of two who’s suffered a damaging stroke, leaving him severely mentally restricted. In response, his spirited wife, Vanetia (Maxine Peake), has brought an American neurophysiologist, Ted Fielding (Will Forte), into the household to observe Conor’s condition and interaction with the family for two months. Welcomed with curious fascination by Vanetia and the children, but greeted with some suspicion by Conor’s extended family, Ted soon finds himself becoming inextricably woven into the family in ways he hadn’t imagined. The unusual, shifting dynamic of the triangulated central relationship makes the film constantly engaging on a narrative level, with Green using the inherent awkwardness of the situation to locate nuanced, character-based humor rather than externally imposing it on the drama.

Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions Live Action Short

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Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions: Live Action Short
Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions: Live Action Short

Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont’s Manon on the Asphalt is a whimsical evocation of a woman’s life flashing before her eyes, but On the Line is the real standout here: The story of a department store security guard obsessed with a book clerk, Reto Caffi’s short risks meet-cute contrivance until a horrifying act of violence provokes the main character to examine the implications of his infatuation. From Denmark, The Pig begins as mysteriously as On the Line ends, with an interesting relationship imagined between an older gentleman and the painting of a pig that hangs from his hospital room, only to devolve into a shrill, rather supremacist why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along rant. If On the Line bears a striking resemblance to Revanche over in the foreign language category, so too does New Boy bring to mind The Class. Except this is a noticeably dumbed-down version of Laurent Cantet’s Cannes prizewinner—one in which a young African immigrant boy struggles with bullies during his first day of class, his embarrassment intercut with scenes from his experiences inside his previous place of learning in violent, succulently shot Africa. Director Steph Green’s literally infantilizes the struggle of immigrants trying to cope with their new surroundings, and though there’s no doubt the short will appeal to the Academy (here’s looking at you fans of Crash, Blood Diamond, The Visitor, and Frozen River), it’s probably unwise to vote against Toyland. Throughout this WWII-set story of a woman who convinces her son that her Jewish neighbors are headed to Toyland, director Jochen Alexander Freydank risks the gross insult of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but he makes interesting use of chronology throughout, in the end foregrounding a woman’s frightened courage and conviction to preserving life rather than making a tacky spectacle of death.