Title: Esther in Wonderland
MPAA Rating: N/A
Director: Stephanie Bollag
Starring: Naian Gonzalez Norvind, Martha Bernabel, Sawandi Wilson
Runtime: 13 mins
What It Is: A short film that follows Esther (Norvind), a young woman who’s struggling with her life at home and the appeals of things that are taboo to her life married to a Hasidic Jewish man. While he’s away, she visits her friends who indulge in hip hop and breakdancing (it’s 1990s New York after all!). She’s drawn in but reserved to watching from afar.
What We Think: With just 13 minutes to cover we can split this film into these two halves to get the full picture of Esther’s life: a melancholy existence inside a loveless marriage and a group of friends who provide an escape from that life. These two things cannot co-exist, but we get the sense Esther hasn’t given a full commitment to either side. Using this split, neither portion of the film is particularly engaging or interesting. Obviously, the filmmakers were limited with time but I think the film suffers a lot from there. There is a skeleton there waiting for a story to come out, but all we’re left with is some contemplation and not much in the way of progression or character growth.
Our grade: D, There’s really just not enough to work with here. What we’re left with is a character and some insight into how she feels. We can think what if she leaves her life or what if she suppresses these feelings but the proceeding story is not interesting enough or fleshed out enough to make you think too hard about it. There’s nothing known about any of the other characters, including Esther’s husband, who is given a big portion of the film’s dialogue. Again, it’s understandable that there wasn’t a lot of time to work with given it’s a short film and presumably not much of a budget. But it’s hard not to feel like the story they were trying to tell couldn’t have been a bit more fleshed out even within the confines of this short film with a bit more dialogue and character building.