Wyatt is on probation and working at a job at a grocery store, but he also has to care for his daughter Tess, shuttling her to and from school and attending her activities, among other duties.
But it’s made much more difficult by the strict curfew and check-ins he must observe to stay out of prison, not to mention an unsympathetic workplace and money troubles. The restrictions of his probation start to affect his work and relationships, and when he reaches an impasse, he must take desperate action not to fail his daughter.
Written and directed by Oz Arshad under the auspices of the National Film and Television School in the U.K., this short drama is, at its heart, a story of a father trying to do his best under strenuous conditions.
It’s shot with often handheld camera and a naturalistic eye for milieu and character. And it does have an interest in exploring how difficult life can be for those on parole, making their chances of going back to prison or jail much higher as they navigate stringent policies.
But it also generates a thriller-like sense of suspense that may surprise some viewers, as Wyatt navigates an increasingly tightening set of conditions to be the parent he longs to be. These are painstakingly built through detailed, character-based writing and editing, building on a script that is tightly focused on Wyatt in his various contexts. As a father, he’s eager to connect but scrambling to keep up with Tess’s needs. At his job, he gets no accommodation for these responsibilities. And the institution of law and order — which actually exerts the biggest influence on his time and circumstances — is a set of ominous pre-recorded messages warning him that any tardies in making his curfew will result in him going back to jail.
Actor Karl Davies captures the stress and small heartbreaks of a man doing his best but falling short at nearly every turn, but his excellent performance is always connected to his desire to do his best for Tess. In doing so, he often becomes frantic with frustration — until he perceives a breaking point and takes desperate action.
“Cur:few” is full of accomplished craftsmanship that can amp up the tension to create a consistently compelling experience. But it doesn’t at all feel manipulative because the storytelling has taken time to build up Wyatt’s character and specific world, and the suspense emerges out of his anxiety and urgency as a father trying to be there for his daughter.
In the end, the great resonant strength of “Cur:few” is that it is so firmly rooted in a father’s desire to be the best parent he can be in highly unforgiving circumstances. The film’s moving final scene finally grants Wyatt the connection he longs for with Tess. Though it has not come without considerable cost, it breaks open the distance and finds a deep well of love within.