• Shawn Christensen and Fatima Ptacek in Curfew

All this month we’ll be reviewing the Oscar nominees for the best animated, live-action, and documentary short films, alternating daily between categories. Check back tomorrow for the next installment.

The films I’ve reviewed in this series thus far (Asad, Henry, and Death of Shadow) have been relatively tame in subject matter. So I was taken aback when Shawn Christensen’s Curfew opens with Richie, a gaunt, wiry-haired guy—played by Christensen himself—wading in bloody bathwater, halfway through with slitting his wrists. It’s a jarring image, to say the least, but the rest of the film is decidedly less grim. Before he can finish himself off, his phone rings, and for whatever reason he answers. On the other line is his estranged sister, Maggie (Kim Allen), who reluctantly asks him to watch over her daughter, Sophia (Fatima Ptacek). Richie agrees, hoists himself out of the tub, and embarks on a coming-of-age journey that culminates in an elaborate dance sequence in a Brooklyn bowling alley—not exactly the stuff of tragedy.