Review: Spilt Milk
Single mom Ximena moves back in with her parents while struggling to care for her young son. She reconnects with her ex-partner, Lena, who is now raising the child they conceived of together with the sperm donor they chose, and the old wound is reopened.
Developed as part of the AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program, championed by Lena Waithe, Spilt Milk is a fantastic showcase short film for emerging voices in Hollywood. Director Cierra Glaudé takes on Mechi Parada-Lakatos’ ambitious script with equally ambitious verve, leaning fully into the complexities of the world of single mother Ximena (Dascha Polanko). Ximena struggles to meet the needs of her autistic child as a single mother. She is thrown a curve ball when former partner Lena (Zuri Adele) re-enters her life.
As a film that tells a story couched in the LGBTQIA+ experience, one of the most refreshing aspects is that the conflicts and issues around being in a same sex relationship do not stem from Ximena, the protagonist. Lena’s inability to be honest with her family and friends in the same way that Ximena has evidently been honest with hers is ultimately what leads to her abandoning the commitment they initially made to each other. Instead, the core of Ximena’s conflict focuses on her difficulties as a single mother, not having enough money and trying to find an appropriate school to meet the needs of her son.
Getting into the meat of the story, we are taken along on the hopeful journey of a rekindling romance. Polanko and Adele do a phenomenal job of creating the kind of chemistry that communicates history. Their attraction to each other is compelling and plays so truthfully that we cannot help but get invested in the possibility of their reconciliation. Polanko infuses Ximena with a unique kind of strength, that gives her the ability to persevere, to love and to forgive but balances it with a vulnerability that lets us know how close she is to breaking.
This is very much a character and performance-driven short film, but those performances are aided by some beautifully crafted filmmaking. Zane Abraham’s cinematography uses every shade and shadow to accentuate the earth tone colour palettes and sun-drenched moments, adding a visual flavour that wonderfully compliments the film’s cultural and ethnic make-up.
Director Cierra Glaudé guides the authentic and at times heart-breaking performances of the cast, while employing a shooting style that perfectly captures and highlights both the instability of Ximena’s day to day life and the moments to of contemplation or vulnerability that underscore key moments in the film.
Mechi Parada-Lakatos’ script is imbued with a sensitivity and layers of pathos that draws us in to Ximena’s struggles. Similarly her dialogue and attention to detail of little things from Ximena’s mother Carmen (Norma Maldonado) struggling to comb her mixed-race grandson’s hair to using food to connect characters to one another that makes the story feel that much more authentic.
This is a short film that does a great job of connecting the LGBTQIA+ experience to universally relatable themes. It allows the characters to simply be who they are, allowing their strengths and flaws to exist in areas like regret or courage. With a great cast, and a heartfelt story, Spilt Milk provides exactly the kind of character-driven experience that makes short film so powerful.
Studio: AT&T Hello Lab | Year: 2019 | Genre: Drama/Romance | Duration: 19 Mins | Suitability: Mature
Dascha Polanco, Zuri Adele, Norma Maldonado, Manny Sandoval
Director: Cierra Glaude | Producers: Jes Anderson, Ruth Du | Writer: Mechi Parada-Lakatos
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