It is round two of reviews for the Oscar-nominated Live Action Short Film category. In this edition, we look at Ivalu and Night Ride. Previously, we looked at The Red Suitcase and An Irish Goodbye.
“My sister…my blood.” Anders Walters’ Ivalu follows Pipaluk (Mila Heilmann Kreutzman), who wakes up one morning to find her sister Ivalu (Nivi Larsen) nowhere to be found. Ivalu has run away from home, and the family’s single father seems intent on doing nothing about it.
So Pipaluk sets out on her own to find Ivalu. This search triggers a series of flashbacks showing glimpses of the sisters’ relationship. The short is well-shot, and I enjoy the employment of diverse natural environments.
However, the story is spare. It begins with Ivalu’s disappearance, and the flashbacks do little to flesh out the characters in a way that complements the linearity of the present timeline, let alone provide nuance to the abrupt and severe turns in the plot that take place in the film’s final minutes.
There is simply not enough time here to grapple with the weighty and serious subject matter here. As a result, it comes off as tragedy without substance, in which a mostly absent character is subject to abuses that seriously impact her mental health.
The first question I had during my watch of Night Ride was, “Why?” The character this story follows has no motivations for the serious of actions that result in the film’s inciting incident. A woman is waiting in the snow, and a tram pulls up. The driver tells her she must wait a half hour before the tram departs, and that she is not allowed to wait inside the tram.
While the driver is in the loo, she decides she cannot bear the cold and jumps onto the tram all the same. Breaking this rule makes logical sense; her fiddling with the controls do not. The rider soon finds herself the de facto driver of the runaway tram; eventually, she even picks up passengers.
Eirik Tveiten’s Night Ride initially reads as this year’s light and fun Live Action Short nominee (there is always at least one). It is a film about the (accidental, mostly) hijacking of a tram car. But housed within this comic premise are some strangely drawn approaches to social politics.
The tone is off here, and the handling of tansphobia that results from the tone shift is, at best, surface level (but perhaps more accurately, misguided). The film essentially combines the stories of two characters. One is the comic holiday romp; the other involves continual harassment and hate. Somehow, the film resolves both stories with the two characters smiling at one another. It is a formula that just doesn’t add up.
Taking Ivalu and Night Ride together, they are the weaker of this year’s Live Action crop.
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)