In the Oscar-nominated live-action short film The Confession, two English boys approach their first time in the box with a priest.
If that sounds a little "law and order," there's a reason.
Jacob has few worries about finding something untoward for this Catholic ritual. He's much more vexed about the white "dress" he has to put on for the event. We see his point. He has a round, soft face ringed by lovely curls. And he rides a pink bicycle. A dress would be the nail.
Nine-year-old Sam, on the other hand, has nothing yet to make amends for. So the two hatch a plan: a minor sin for Sam to divulge. Things go terrifically awry and then plummet from there.
It's one of the Oscar-nominated short films showing in four separate packages (animated, live-action and two documentary parts) this weekend at The Kentucky Theatre.
Many film festival watchers know that shorts can be some of the most dynamic and engaging programming.
A bright idea economically executed, a clever kicker, an overwhelming mood — these are some of the qualities of the short film.
The best are never shrunken features. They are complete in their own right. They can be the poems or the short stories of moviemaking.
In all of 23 minutes, The Confession, directed by Tanel Toom and written by Caroline Bruckner, grapples dramatically with the notion that the church forces its young to enter the assembly line of confession and absolution early. The Confession won the Student Academy Award last year, giving it a nice head wind for the Oscars on Sunday.
The Confession isn't the only short concerned with children that turns on dark moments. Michael Creagh's The Crush begins all sweetness and light as schoolboy Ardal Travis presents his teacher with a ring. It shifts to mild foreboding when the lad meets his rival. The film moves from charming to funny to unnerving, and you're not quite sure it won't change direction at least one more time.
In Tom Bidwell's Wish 143, a 15-year-old tracks the growth of his cancer tumors by the fruit size they approximate. This one's a kiwi, now a peach.
When a Make-a-Wish-style honcho asks what the boy wants, he says to lose his virginity. The appropriateness of this desire concerns a priest who works in the cancer ward. Where that pang takes the young man is beyond touching.
The animated shorts package has wonders, too. The most arresting is French animator Bastien Dubois' Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage, in which a travel diary comes to vivid life, inviting us along for a beautiful ride. Yes, there are lemurs, but it is the Malagasy people who beckon.
The front-runner for the Oscar is probably Pixar's Day & Night. Anyone who went to Toy Story 3 or bought it on DVD has seen this cleverly executed short, in which two goofily silhouetted characters with daytime and nighttime innards meet, and then compete, before a détente dawns on them.