By Ayla Amano | Drama
2 teenage sisters discover a rabbit caught in a trap. Then a rift appears between them.

Two teenage sisters, Sam and Edie, live on a farm in the heart of rural Ireland. Together, they undertake the often thankless round of chores to keep the farm going, though the younger sister is harder to corral.

But one day on their daily rounds to feed the animals, they discover a rabbit caught in a trap and must decide what to do with it. In doing so, they reveal the rift between the sisters and just how deep it goes.

Written and directed by Ayla Amano, this thoughtful, understated short family drama explores the bonds of both love and resentment between siblings. Taking its aesthetic and emotional cues from the stark rural Irish countryside, it possesses an observational intimacy with the sometimes harsh details of farm life and a keen ear and ear for how love and resentment can simmer between sisters.

The raw, beautiful landscape of rural Ireland dominates the film's visuals, captured in gorgeous wide shots and pristine cinematography. But these shots aren't just visually striking. The farm setting nestled in the land functions as a silent character, with its demands shaping the lives and relationships of the two young women.

The first section of the film has a profound quiet, and viewers have time and detail to observe the two sisters in the grind of their daily life. One attacks her tasks with a grim, business-like determination; the other would rather be doing something else, and must herself be corralled by her elder sister. As expected, they wrangle over their differences, which come to the fore when they discover a rabbit in a trap.

Actors Kate Cullen and Guevara Hughes turn in beautifully natural, unvarnished performances as the pair of sisters. The depth of their bond and the intensity of their tension are lived-in and believable: both their conversation and their silences are full of their complex emotions. But as their tension crests into outright conflict and they argue over the fate of the rabbit, they illuminate how different they are -- and just how they feel about these differences.

Both a snapshot of rural life and a portrait of two seemingly different sisters, "4X4" examines how siblings often get sorted into different roles. These roles may be a product of temperament and circumstance, but they also structure and inhibit the growth of the people occupying them. With such rigidity, it also can damage the connection between the sisters. But as they learn to truly communicate and listen to one another, they regain an appreciation for one another and can share joy once again.

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