By Devon Manney | Animation
Returning to the U.S. after losing both arms, a veteran battles phantom pains, prosthetics and memories of his pre-war life.

A young military veteran, Will, returns home after a stint overseas, having lost both arms during his tour. He’s come home to his wife Rachel, but home feels strange — the place feels different, and he also has a new baby, Amelia.

But the transition isn’t easy, as he grapples phantom pain in his limbs, learning to use prosthetics and adjusting to his new life while trying to cope with his pre-war memories. Will grows increasingly isolated and full of despair, but through reconnecting with his loved ones and learning to accept his past and embrace his future, he finds his way.

Writer-director Devon Manney’s Student Academy Award-winning animated drama is a sensitive and introspective immersion into the difficult transition many veterans make after returning home. Many of them try to equalize towards a new normal, and must grapple with trying to “catch up” to a life that has gone on in their absence. But their psyches — and very often their bodies — also have been reshaped during their time away, making the adjustment even more difficult.

Will’s journey is steadily and gently delineated in the storytelling, each beat focused on his feelings of discombulation, struggle and emotional isolation. Will literally wants to reach out — and in one scene, he wants to pick up his young daughter — but the phantom pain he experiences is a significant barrier to overcome, forcing a wedge between himself and the people around him.

This phantom pain is economically yet powerfully rendered in the film’s animation, making Will’s inner experience visual and electric. In this sense, animation is the perfect medium to convey subjective and psychological experience, making the inner intrusions of Will’s phantom pains into a palpable, outer-facing force that exerts itself, much to Will’s detriment.

The visuals themselves have an elegant and evocating simplicity, paring down Will’s story to its essentials and drawing powerful focus on the veteran’s emotional experience. Combined with the relative realism of the sound design — interpolated with electrical noise for Will’s pain and well-placed use of a beautifully emotional score — the result is a resonant, emotionally powerful experience that gets to the heart of Will’s journey as he struggles to accept his new self, body and life, and find beauty and connection once again.

“Cradle” — which was also shortlisted for the Best Animated Short Oscar in 2017 — is a showcase for animation’s unique gifts as a medium, with its ability to engage the eye and evoke feeling and emotion with focus and economy, and the film’s somber yet gentle style establishes the story’s tone and approach to Will’s story.

With empathy and compassion, the film offers a unique intimate look at what is often an alienating experience. But as Will eventually makes it to the other side, the ending is subtle, well-earned and resonant, because the audience knows just how much Will and veterans like him have struggled — and how much seemingly small victories can feel like huge triumphs in the face of pain and suffering.

You Might Also Like:


By Kaveh Mazaheri | Drama
Her husband has an accident at home... and she just watches him die.

Stealing Silver ft. Maisie Williams

By Mark Lobatto | Drama
A woman confronts a painful time in her life after discovering the truth about a mysterious old man living across from her.

Joseph’s Reel

By Michael Lavers | Romance
An elderly man, upon dying, is given the opportunity to relive one day of his life.

Hold On

By Charlotte Scott-Wilson | Drama
A young cellist develops stage fright after one of her cello strings comes lose during an important performance.

Don’t Be a Hero

By Pete Lee | Drama
A middle-aged woman battles her loneliness and boredom by robbing banks in the guise of a cowboy on her lunch break.

Our Kind of Love

By Elham Ehsas and Azeem Bhati | Romance
An Afghan village girl goes on her first date in London.

Lost and Found

By Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe | Animation
A clumsy crochet dinosaur must unravel itself to save the love of its life.

Edmund the Magnificent ft. David Bradley, Ian McKellen

By Ben Ockrent | Comedy
A once-legendary farmer takes a chance and invests his life savings in a thoroughbred piglet.


By Joe Gillette | Romance
Two strangers, trying to avoid the crowd at a wedding reception, end up making an unexpected connection.

Exit Strategy

By Travis Bible | Sci-Fi
Two brothers caught in a time loop must traverse a series of maze-like events in order to prevent a catastrophic fire from occurring.


By Georgi Bank-Davies | Romance
A young woman wakes up in a strange place, with a strange guy. Then, she start to piece together how she got there.


By Joey Ally | Romance
A couple's love life begins to slump, forcing them to reconsider the relationship and confront how intertwined they've become.


By Mark Ram | Drama
Two friends climb a mountain, connected by a rope. But when one falls, the other's life hangs in an unstable balance.


By Noel Loozen | Comedy
A young man finds himself in between a food-truck and a brothel. Then, he meets his dream girl.

Long Branch

By Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart | Romance
A heartbroken woman finds a one-night stand. But the guy lives two hours away... via public transit.

Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening. That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.