Country Strong: Hinds finds closure in rural Ireland.
Country Strong: Hinds finds closure in rural Ireland.

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In The Shore, a man played Ciarán Hinds returns to his rural Ireland home for the first time in 25 years. He brings his grown daughter (Kerry Condon). The exact reason behind his visit is unknown, but by the end of the film, we’ve got story that packs in and pays off themes of romance, forgiveness, promises kept, and friendship renewed. Writer-director Terry George’s movie runs just under 31 minutes, yet it feels like a feature.

The Shore was rightfully nominated for an Academy Award along with four other live-action shorts of various lengths and levels of success. The India-set Raju feels similarly whole at 25 minutes. The plot involves a German couple (Wotan Wilke Möhring and Julia Richter) who adopt a young boy (Krish Gupta) from a Kolkata orphanage. Things go swimmingly at first, but then the new dad’s split-second mistake leads to a mystery and eventually discovery of some stomach-turning corruption.

Two of the nominees are fairly lighthearted. Irish writer-director Peter McDonald brings a football theme to Pentecost, the 1977-set tale of an altar boy (Scott Graham) who is temporarily banned from his duties—and from watching his favorite sport—after accidentally knocking down a priest. He gets a chance to redeem himself as a “wild card” serving at an important Mass. The time and setting feel arbitrary and the climax rather unbelievable, but Pentecost is an enjoyable bit of fluff.

Similar in tone is Time Freak, writer-director Andrew Bowler’s story of two friends (John Conor Brooke and Michael Nathanson), one of whom becomes obsessed with perfecting the actions of his immediate past when he invents a time machine. The story is relatable—who doesn’t want a do-over every once in a while?—but slight.

Least impressive is Tuba Atlantic, a Norway-set tale of an old man (Edvard Haegstad) whose doctor tells him he has six days to live. We know he’s alone and that he’s stubborn and curmudgeonly—and that’s about it for characterization. A young, shrill “Angel of Death” (Ingrid Viken) visits to ease him through his final days. But all he’s interested in is shooting seagulls and trying to contact his brother in the U.S. by pointing a giant tuba toward the sea. (Seriously.) Hallvar Witzø’s 26-minute film feels flat, the characters are somewhat irritating, and it ends on a false-sounding note of sentimentality. It’s the Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close of the live-action category.