Cotton Wool


Family outings are the best.

(2017) Drama (Cherwell) Leanne Best, Crissy Rock, Kate Rutter, Max Vento, Gemma North, Katherine Quinn, Jason Lamar Ricketts, Emma Charlotte Heyes, Caragh Casserly, Olivia Hargreaves, Megan Grady, Lulu Mann, Will Clay, Edward Buckley. Directed by Nicholas Connor

 

Life can change in the space of a heartbeat. One moment, everything is normal and business as usual. The next, everything is different and our roles have been redefined, not only in regards to each other but in regards to ourselves.

Rachel (Best) is a singe mum in the North of England who works hard to put food on the table and care for her children; nine-year-old Sam (Vento) whom she dotes on, and teenage Jenny (Rock) whom she butts heads with. Remember that moment-to-moment thing? She’s taking laundry downstairs, trying to get her kids shooed off to school and herself to work when she collapses, suffering a massive stroke, Sam begging her to stop being a monster, clinging to the hope that his mum is trying to mess with him rather than think that something is seriously wrong which he knows deep down is true.

When Rachel comes home from the hospital, it becomes the responsibility of Jenny and Sam to take care of her. She has gone from taking care of her kids to being cared for by them. At first, Jenny wants no part of it. She wants nothing more than to be a normal teenage girl, hanging out at the pub with her friends. She abrogates her responsibility, leaving even more of the burden on Sam’s shoulders and fortunately Sam comes through, helping his mum with phonetic exercises trying to get a semblance of speech back for her and more importantly, having the presence of mind to summon help when his mother has a second mini-stroke.

A family friend (Rutter)) sees what’s happening and feels the need to intercede with Jenny, who is absolutely terrified when she realizes how easily her mum could have lost her life. The thought causes Jenny to reconsider her priorities.

The movie is ultimately heartwarming, but it underscores a serious problem with the National Health Service; there are nearly a quarter million caregivers in the UK who are children and of those, a significant percentage is under nine. I’m not sure what the figures are like here in the States, but I can bet that they are just as bad or worse, considering that we don’t have much of a healthcare system.

Best gives an outstanding performance here; the terror in her eyes as she falls to the floor, her last coherent words being “Oh, no!” as she realizes that something terrible is happening to her. Later on, her frustration has to be portrayed largely with her eyes and through tears, reduced to using a speech machine that in a flat operator-like voice says “I don’t feel like a woman anymore” as she confides to the social worker, at last being forced to ask her for help going to the loo.

The movie does get a bit maudlin at times as Sam, well-played by child actor Max Vento, is a bit too good to be true and Jenny a little bit too self-centered to begin with. There is a very real issue here, but the thirty-seven-minute running time isn’t really sufficient time to explore it properly. This is the rare case of a film not having enough time. As a result, Connor (who also wrote the film) is forced to use a cudgel rather than a scalpel.

This short has completed a successful festival run and should be on Amazon shortly. It is well worth seeking out.

REASONS TO SEE: Points out a rather large crack in the NHS that people fall through.
REASONS TO AVOID: Sometimes gets a little maudlin.
FAMILY VALUES: Perfectly suitable for all family members.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Best also played the title role in The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/24//20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic:  No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Big Sick
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
Robert the Bruce

Pride & Joy


 

Nothing says Southern cooking better than barbecue and few do barbecue better than Helen Sanders.

Nothing says Southern cooking better than barbecue and few do barbecue better than Helen Sanders.

(2012) Documentary (Southern Foodways Alliance) Will Harris, Dori Sanders, Rodney Scott, Lee Ross, Kendall Schoelles, Thomas Stewart, Julian van Winkle, Ben Lanier, Allan Benton, Bill Best, Geno Lee, Rhoda Adams, Leah Chase, Martha Hawkins, Ida Mamusu, Earl Cruze, Helen Turner, Bernard Colleton, Red Coleman, Sam Jones, Bruce Jones, Gerald Lemoine, Ronnie Durand. Directed by Joe York 

Florida Film Festival 2013

Southern cuisine is much more than pork rinds, barbecue and deep fried. The South has always gotten a bit of a bad rap when it comes to food until the last decade or two when chefs have begun to discover that there is an abundance of fresh ingredients, delicious cooking that takes its cues from all over the world. Celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse, John Besh, Art Smith, Norm van Aiken and of course Paula Deen have been enthusiastic ambassadors for Southern cooking over the past decade and some of the best restaurants in the world come from the South.

But Southern cooking isn’t all about celebrity chefs. There are literally thousands of food producers who take great pride in bringing to market the finest of ingredients, the most delicious of finished products. Some are the latest in generations of people who have done the same thing, some preserving the timeless traditions of taking the time to do things right.

The Southern Foodways Alliance has been dedicated to preserving Southern food traditions and publicizing the best of the best – those who produce beautiful Georgia peaches, grass-fed beef, gulf oysters, sweet Tupelo honey, flavorful smoked Virginia hams, gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, potent Kentucky bourbon and of course the best barbecue there is. Some of these are sold directly to the public while others are available only through suppliers.

York, acting on behalf of the SFA and the University of Mississippi Documentary program has been traveling throughout the South from New Orleans to Memphis, from Georgia to Virginia and all points in between – not just sampling the ample variety of food but documenting it on a series of shorts that celebrate the passions of these producers – from oyster shuckers to caviar farmers to orchard owners to bourbon distillers to beekeepers to barbecue pit masters – who not only cook the food but those who produce the ingredients.

He’s gathered some of these shorts as well as several new ones in a feature length documentary that not only celebrates the food but those behind it as well. We get to see people who love the land and its bounty, some of them quirky (grass-fed beef producer Will Harris likes to end his day with a “700ml glass of wine”), some of them completely passionate (like Tupelo honey producer Ben Lanier who waxes rhapsodic over the superiority of his brand of honey) and some of them who are philosophical (peach grower Dori Sanders on how food “speaks to you” and tells you something about who you are). Not a one of these shorts are boring and every one of them will not only give you a different outlook on food and eating but will make you downright hungry in the process.

You get a sense of the modern South here, from rural South Carolina to metropolitan New Orleans. The beauty of the green pastures where cattle graze in the late afternoon sun – far from the steroid-injected factory farm cattle who live in stalls fed on corn and chemicals meant to create a greater meat yield – gives you a sense of why these people love the land they tend and love what they do. These are people I wouldn’t mind spending an hour or two just chatting about their products and about their lives, sitting on the porch with a cold frosty beverage or perhaps enjoying the fruits of their labors. Sadly, we only get five minutes or so with each one – I could certainly have enjoyed longer chats with each and every one of these people. That’s the mark of a great documentary.

Incidentally, you can see the shorts at the Southern Foodways alliance website here and to find out where you can get the products shown in the film go to the movie’s website by clicking on the picture above.

REASONS TO GO: Each segment is fascinating and there isn’t one I didn’t wish had lasted longer.

REASONS TO STAY: You’ll be real hungry by the time this is over.

FAMILY VALUES:  There are some animal carcasses that might upset the very impressionable young or militant vegetarians.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Much of the transportation was done through a Ford Taurus station wagon, affectionately nicknamed the “Schwagon” which York drove to the various locations throughout the South. The Schwagon was retired with honors shortly before the film was completed.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/12/13: Rotten Tomatoes: no score yet. Metacritic: no score yet; the film is mostly on the festival circuit and at one-off screenings throughout the Southeast; PBS will be airing it sometime in the fall.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Food Finds

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

NEXT: Year of the Living Dead and more coverage of the 2013 Florida Film Festival!