The word "gritty" comes to mind when I start thinking about how to describe Nursery Rhyme, a 73-minute micro-budgeted feature directed by Edward Sanchez and written by by David Pettine that stars Janet Tracy Keijser as a mother willing to fight to the death to protect her child.
How far is too far?
There are a couple of things that stand-out, in particular, about the thought-provoking Nursery Rhyme.
First, Sanchez has the good sense to not try to get more out of Nursery Rhyme than he can possibly get within the limitations of an indie budget. Nursery Rhyme is a challenging film, yet for the most part Sanchez and Pettine have focused their attention on the story that unfolds and the characters themselves. While there are some "effects," they are secondary to everything else that's going on.
Secondly, Janet Tracy Keijser is quite the find as Mary Hubbard.
Yes, I got the name. Yes, I chuckled.
Keijser is dramatic and emotionally involving and just plain compelling throughout her screen time, which involves the vast majority of the film's actual running time. It's not clear, at least not for a while, exactly what is going on in Nursery Rhyme, yet it's abundantly clear that Keijser's Hubbard is running away from something and Keijser does a terrific job of making us feel her journey. In addition to Keijser's terrific performance, Nursery Rhyme benefits from the presence of Shanta Payne, as Diana, along with Angelina Ganiere, Bruce Cole-Edwards and others.
D.P. Lawrence Malloy's lensing is particularly effective. While it's difficult to adequately shoot a film on a low budget, modern technology and a creative cinematographer can do the trick. Malloy employs all kinds of effectives shades, shadows and layers to create a look for the film that is emotionally resonant and occasionally quite jarring. Jon Ong's original music also gives the film an uncomfortable, vulnerable feeling that weaves itself into the fabric of everything that unfolds.
Nursery Rhyme isn't a perfect film, yet it's an involving one. With a terrific key central performance and better production quality than you might expect, David Pettine's story unfolds convincingly and Sanchez manages it all with disciplined finesse. If you get a chance, check it out!