A celebration of shorts

By Holly Downes, and

In celebration of the shortest month of the year, Film & TV’s contributors were tasked with discovering the very best short films to satisfy our ever-shortening attention spans.

Second Best

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Second Best, as the title suggests, exposes the realities of twin relationships — the exhausting battle to become the best when this term is only reserved for one. Being a dark comedy about the fierce rivalry between identical twins, whose inseparable bond is threatened when a sister’s successful gymnastics career steals the spotlight, a competitive streak starts to fuel their dichotomy. This is further instigated by their ambitious mother, who projects her unattainable hopes and dreams upon them, measuring her self-worth with the twins’ accomplishments. Yet, when the twins’ lifestyles take an unexpected turn one day, the family dynamics are left fragmented forever.

It is a simple yet deeply provocative film

Revealing the struggle to define oneself from the bubble of ‘twindom’, where twins are seen as one rather than separate individuals, simple dialogue, long silences and 2.66:1 aspect ratio film shots are used to reflect these feelings of bleak emptiness and isolation. Bearing the question of whether they will grow together or grow apart, it is a simple yet deeply provocative film that combines domestic tension, controlling mothers and the importance of sibling bonds.

If Anything Happens, I Love You

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For a film that lacks dialogue, grief screams loudly through every moment of If Anything Happens, I Love You. The winner of the 2021 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, it delivers an emotional punch which leaves its audience reeling. It languishes in the fact that it’s a mere twelve minutes, making every moment an intense watch as it deals with the grief of two parents mourning the loss of their daughter to a school shooting. The choice to use sketch animation makes the dark shadows of their grief even more noticeable as the audience is given a view into the lives of these parents as they desperately try to deal with the unimaginable.

The film is known for removing politics from the situation

The subject matter of If Anything Happens, I Love You is undoubtedly a political one as it tackles the polarising issue of school shootings, but the film is known for removing politics from the situation. By stripping the topic back to its most fundamental impact, the grief of those left behind, it makes it impossible for anyone to take a partisan approach. Because in the end, who could imagine the horror of the last communication of a loved one being “if anything happens, i love you”.

水グモもんもん, Mizugumo Monmon 

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Mizugumo Monmon, 水グモもんもん, is a lesser known Studio Ghibli film by Hayao Miyazaki and that is for good reason. The fifteen-minute short was only displayed in Japan at the Ghibli Museum of Art, along with other short films by the production company. However, for fans of Miyazaki’s work, it is still worth the watch as the 2006 film can be found online.

Whilst using no words, the film shows a gentle love that is both longing and sad

The film follows a diving bell spider (a type of aquatic spider) named Monmon, almost a reflection of a slice of life. As it goes about its daily routine, Monmon meets a water strider and falls in love. As the short progresses, we see their relationship develop. Like with most Miyazaki, it has the foundation of mono no aware, 物の哀れ, or the pathos of things. Whilst using no words, the film shows a gentle love that is both longing and sad. Like with most Ghibli films, the music from the short is an integral part. It helps to bring the viewer along in the romance it portrays.

Mizugomo Monmon is personally, one of my favourite Ghibli films as it’s intricate story and beauty makes it stand out against other features made by the same company.

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