In contemporary cinema, the short film is a gravely underappreciated form. Many of these capture emerging talent in its most appealing bloom, and the award-winning “Laughing Branches” is a prime example. The unusually imaginative character study, starring award-winning actor Missy Malek, Tom Hanson (recently featured in ‘Murder on the Orient Express’) and Leo Suter (also seen on ITV's ‘Victoria’), is a thought provoking dramedy that depicts the stories of a pair of aspiring actors who hypothesize—and experience—a series of alternate life scenarios, some alone,others as a couple. As Hanson’s character says in the opening sequence, “there are an infinite number of universes—this is just one of them—and anything that’s theoretically possible is happening, right now, in one of those universes.”
Deftly conceived and presented, beautifully shot and edited, it’s an arresting fantasy which allows the actors to explore the full range of the human experience. The film presents a kaleidoscopic trip across the emotional spectrum, an intense, compelling journey full of unexpected scenarios and surprising twists and each actor’s performance confronts each offbeat shift with dazzling ease, particularly the engaging up and comer Missy Malek.
Malek’s impressively poised presence defines the film’s rich psychic content, and her subtle, nuanced approach to the plots complex narrative demands is nothing short of masterly. As she and the equally capable Hanson’s characters run the gauntlet of highs and lows that typically confront a romantically bonded pair, the film’s unusual structure displays an audacious fluidity which both use to showcase their formidable interpretive talent. Without giving away too much away, suffice to say that, as it progresses—rippling gracefully through glimpses of success and failure, exult and misery—the audience becomes so completely captivated that we just don’t want the film to end.
Not surprisingly, “Laughing Branches” made significant traction in the cinema world and has enjoyed some well-deserved international recognition. Malek won the IndieFest Award for best actress, the film took the Key West Film Festival’s Best Short Film award and also the prestigious Remi Award at WorldFest Houston (an honor whose previous recipients include Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg). Additionally, it was screened at the famed Cannes short film corner and included the official competition at the Oscar-qualifying Bermuda Film Festival and stands as a remarkable achievement in the short film category. Highly recommended,