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Written by: Suzana Norberg |   Directed by: Devin Scott |  Genre: Comedy

What could be worse for a young brother and sister than having to spend the day at a cemetery with their mother and grandmother? Not a lot, and this is especially true for Suzi (Keziah Wall) and Tommy (Conor Kowalski), who would much rather be playing with dolls or shooting off a slingshot. The trip is to pay respects to their deceased grandfather and is a weekly event presided over by the grandmother (Suzana Norberg), with attendance being required.

The grandmother is a real powerhouse and force to be reckoned with in this family, and even the children’s mother can’t seem to deal with her abusive parent. I use the term abusive because that’s how this woman seemed to me and not just with her daughter and grandchildren but also with her departed husband. This is shown through flashbacks, including one real gut wrencher involving a loaf of bread. 

Libertyville is presented as a comedy, and it does have its moments, but under it, all is the unmistakable feeling of a showcase for abuse. A “what not to do” for parents everywhere. But what I would consider abuse many may see simply as a strict upbringing. I say tomato, and you say tomato, as the saying goes. In 17 short minutes, this film covers a lot of ground, and with a great eye for detail, the 70s are brought back to life again, and in the case of Libertyville, that decade fits perfectly with the characters and the attitudes. I’m not sure this story could have been told, in this way, if it were done in 2021, and as a memory/reflective film, the era fits perfectly.

I wrote about the overbearing nature of the grandmother, but I should also write about the rest of the family. The daughter seems lost in a fog of not knowing how to deal with her mother, and her outbursts seem to reveal that she’s about to crack herself and the kids? They just seem like normal kids living in a glasshouse. Suzi is who we spend most of our time with, and the story seems like it’s told from her perspective. The acting in this film is pretty great and more than makes up for any technical, micro-budget elements you may notice.

A comedy with a deeper, darker message? 

Libertyville has a lot of talking points for sure, but one thing stands true no matter what lens you decide to watch this film using. It’s 17 minutes that speeds by, and 17 minutes you won’t be sorry for giving up. This was a great short film that makes light of what some may consider a slightly abusive family dynamic. This is 2021, after all. Everything is considered abusive to someone.

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