Observable trends in this year's batch of Oscar-nominated narrative shorts include child endangerment, as usual, tending away from comedy, as usual, and being from countries other than the United States, which helps mitigate these familiar sentimental irritations. Also, weird to say it, but several of them are just too damn long. The shortest of the bunch also is the sweetest: From Finland, Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? cutely encourages a pushy young gal to wrangle her husband and kids through a big messy hurry for seven minutes, showing up fellow nominees whose vamping indulgences stretch them out to the awkward not-quite-feature length of around half an hour. Just Before Losing Everything, a French film about a woman taking her kids with her to work for refuge from an abusive husband, is decidedly less rushed. A hospital janitor befriends a dying boy in the tender-hearted Danish drama Helium, none of whose technically unimpeachable elements manage, alas, to be lighter than air. In That Wasn't Me, as harrowing events spur rapport between a Spanish social worker and an African child soldier, the filmmakers nicely expand their story's psychological scope, but also seem unfortunately distracted by similarly expanding their budget for action scenes. As extracted into 13 minutes from a David Mitchell novel, only The Voorman Problem, with Martin Freeman as a jailhouse shrink and Tom Hollander as an inmate with an eerily evidence-supported god complex, leaves us wanting more.
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