Omeleto

A Modest Defeat

By David Barr | Drama
2 young siblings fight a civil war in suburbia.

Two young siblings duke it out for domination in suburbia. Big brother Tommy has the advantage: he’s older, bigger and tougher, and he’s not afraid to play dirty, whether it’s stealing his little sister Tiny’s food at dinner or distracting her at a school-wide relay race so that she gets off to a late start.

But Tiny has a plan to level the playing field, one that capitalizes on her smarts, ingenuity and resourcefulness — and she goes to great lengths to score herself a small but very satisfying victory.

Writer-director David Barr’s cheeky, charming family comedy is a study in sibling rivalry, told with a genuine sense of sweetness that never feels too cute or cloying. Told with almost no dialogue, the storytelling nevertheless captures Tiny’s world, full of the small but significant indignities that she suffers at the hands of Tommy.

With a lack of dialogue, the film is reliant on good performances to communicate character and emotion. Young performer Sophia Ally plays Tiny, bringing appealing intelligence and nuance to a role that could come across as twee. She’s rightfully indignant, hurt and disappointed with how Tommy treats her, but she’s also smart, and goes about her plans with a sense of pluck, confidence and patience. Tom Harrison plays her brother with just the right degree of stereotypical big-brother attitude, and his behavior comes across as casually bratty, but never hateful or full of vengeance. This isn’t a dysfunctional family, but an archetypal one.

With a measured, gentle narrative pace and deliberate editing — and backed by an excellently evocative musical score — the audience watches Tiny research, trial and ultimately execute her ingenuous plan, building to a funny, endearing reveal. Tiny’s achievement is not just brilliant in itself, but also in her precocious understanding of strategy. In this particular game of sibling rivalry, winning doesn’t happen by being stronger or faster, but in being smarter in finding a different way to the finish line.

Many family-oriented films can err on the side in cuteness, but what works in “A Modest Defeat” is how it recognizes the intensity and seriousness of the emotional life of children, even as its aesthetic decisions elevate the story to the level of a modern fairy tale. Young children in any situation often strive to feel a sense of agency and efficacy, to feel more than pawns of the bigger forces around them. They may not be scientific geniuses like Tiny, but they can rely on inner resources like cleverness, calm and equanimity to eke out the victories that build confidence and self-worth in the long run.





You Might Also Like:

Bless Me Father

By Paul M. Horan | Drama
A priest has a moral dilemma when a man confesses a secret that affects his life.

The Goodnight Show

By Charlie Schwan | Drama
A virgin tries to get laid before an unstoppable asteroid ends the world.

Naysayer ft. Steven Yeun

By David M. Helman | Drama
A young father who is cut off from his son takes matters into his own hands.

Mordechai

By Benjamin Bee | Drama
An ultra-Orthodox Jew reunites with his twin brother for their father's funeral.

Retouch

By Kaveh Mazaheri | Drama
An Iranian woman's husband has an accident at home... and she just watches him die.

Stealing Silver ft. Maisie Williams

By Mark Lobatto | Drama
A woman uncovers the truth about the man living across from her.

Joseph’s Reel

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

Cradle

By Devon Manney | Animation
A veteran soldier who loses both arms battles phantom pains and memories of a pre-war life.

Hold On

By Charlotte Scott-Wilson | Drama
A young cellist develops stage fright after a string comes lose during a big performance.

Don’t Be a Hero

By Pete Lee | Drama
A woman battles her loneliness by robbing banks as 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 farmer invests his savings in a piglet.

Reception

By Joe Gillette | Romance
2 strangers at a wedding reception make an unexpected connection.

Exit Strategy

By Travis Bible | Sci-Fi
A man in a time-loop must work with his brother to prevent a catastrophic fire.


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.