CHERISH– 3 STARS
For swift storytelling in the artistic medium of short films, every word counts. The time to both make an impression and speak the desired narrative is scarce. One must say a great deal with little. To that end, go ahead and count body language as double or even triple the value to dialogue. Cherish, the new Chicago-set short film from the Splatter Brothers filmmaking team of Lionel Chapman and Ira Childs earns strong merit from both the said and unsaid on a multitude of levels.
A middle-aged man arrives through the front door of his home. He enters with a sigh and a mouth wipe while kicking off his shows. For most folks, this is a time of release and relief. For this man, it is as if the presumed comfort of home equals entering a sharp place of thorny distress instead. The actor, Shawn Wilson, presents this arrival without saying a word while melancholy music plays. That’s simple and effective body language. Start tripling that value.
This man’s name is Shane and he pauses before trudging upstairs to dial a readily available contact from his phone. The call goes straight to the voicemail greeting of the teenage-voiced Shayna. Shane leaves no message and pulls his phone down. Just hearing this causes emotion, one we cannot fully read, but it’s not positive. As he trudges upstairs to a bedroom and sits, he dials the number again with a quivering hand and an even more trembling face.
LESSON #1: THE PAIN OF SOLITARY REGRET— Again, Shawn Wilson has uttered no words and he doesn’t have to. All people have felt regret and know it when we see it. This man sits broken and alone. When he gazes over to photographs on the dresser of a woman and a girl, memories flash taking Cherish back to the roots of this pain.
LESSON #2: MAKING LIFE ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN— Through flashback, Cherish introduces Shane’s wife Jasmine (Anita Nicole Brown) as she’s packing up to leave him. The sting jumps to the aftermath of shared custody time with their daughter Shayna, our future voicemail greeting and emotional trigger played by Mikayla Boyd. Father and daughter are contentious and do not respect each other’s hardships and sacrifices.
In a mere eight minutes, Ira Childs and Lionel Chapman present a cautionary family tale sturdy enough to perforate an empathetic soul. In her pair of moments sharing the setting and screen with Wilson, Mikayla Boyd gives a very animated performance as a jaded teenager who cannot see or understand Lesson #2 that every parent constantly struggles with. Her conviction is more than convincing.
This is where Cherish’s strong foundation of valuable body language gives way to economic dialogue. In an extended two-part conversation, the strife is crystal clear. No massive family histories or long-winded storms are needed. The editing of Makeya Barr-Johnson and Joey Domenick follow the argumentative volleys back and forth until their breaking point. Through it all, we come to know why this film is titled Cherish and not Regret.
LESSON #3: THE DEFINITION OF “CHERISH”— The dictionary reminds of three different connotations of “cherish.” It means to “cultivate with care and affection,” which is spoken like a true parent. The word describes someone or something to “hold dear.” Lastly and most powerfully, cherish means “to entertain or harbor in the mind deepy and resolutely.” The events that led to the regret of this story feed and remind all three for the solitary Shane. The feeling of “cherish” is much better when shared. Cherishing only a memory is only half the fulfillment.
Thanks to 2019’s Loyalty, the Splatter Brothers are starting to garner attention and awards on the festival circuit. Tackling heavy drama like this in Cherish is a worthy follow-up. Their namesake may elicit a thirst for blood, but what they really hit is the marrow. The way these writers and filmmakers can capture honest and domestic soul and vitality in such contained bursts is really something. Future film festivals deserve to honor that talent.