Written and directed by David Bartlett, Berlin 1936, a hidden 7-year-old Roma refugee is discovered by the Nazis as they cleanse the streets of “undesirables”. Starring: Sasha Watson Lobo, CJ Johnson, Jack Bennett, Joshua Lay, Nichole Bird and Somi De Souza.
Introducing stories based on or around the Holocaust is generally a safe bet for touching upon emotional material, but Mousie feels like it’s relying too much on that inevitability. While there is territory worth exploring, this story doesn’t attempt to build any of the layers or depth that it sorely needs, instead remaining shallow and theatrical. The result of that means there’s no sincerity or tangible atmosphere to be found. It spends most of its time focusing on the entirely wrong aspects of the story, giving a huge portion of its runtime to the stage performances. It’s predictable, and bounces between relying on shock and cute factors, but without the content to create an actual discussion or emotional connection, it has little to offer.
The visual style follows the same pattern, it doesn’t create an authentic air, it feels too forced and artificial. While the costumes and set design themselves are well done to represent the era, they can’t fight back against the superficial quality to the cinematography and direction. It leans entirely towards flare over substance, however the score actually works extremely well, though it sadly can’t help to build the missing tension.
It’s unfortunately not further helped by the performances, too much rests on the shoulders of its youngest member, Sasha Watson Lobo and she can’t pull it off. It’s a tough role in a difficult subject to give to a child, and Lobo struggles to bring a sincerity. CJ Johnson holds her own and goes towards an interesting portrayal of a stiff upper lip in times of war. Alongside Jack Bennett as the lone Nazi officer, there’s the sparkle of something interesting but it mostly falls on predictability.
Mousie is a good concept with weak execution, there’s a conversation to be had about all the different types of people and races who were persecuted during the Holocaust but this doesn’t have the time or depth to dive into it. It’s too big of a task to put on the shoulders of such a young actress and met with a style that also can’t hold sincerity, it falls for style over substance.