Review: Kiri and the Girl

Directed by Grace Dove and written by Christopher Logan, after the death of her mother, a young girl finds her strength and reconnects to her world. Starring: Tahmoh Penikett, Nathaniel Arcand, Barbara Patrick, Valerie Oliver, Patsy Tuba, Isla Grant and Azéza Youngchief.

The easiest comparison you could make to quickly understand this short film is with 2017’s Coco. Kiri and the Girl explores the culture of death and heritage in the Native American community. The style gives it a homage feel, there’s a clear dedication and love at the root of its story. It even has the edge of an educational tone, aiming to teach others about the rich history of the community. However, considering the length of the short, it feels unfocused, it takes a little too long to establish itself and the moments spent on the father don’t quite serve the story as effectively. It does hold a sweet, family tone but there’s a higher energy in its later moments which it overall doesn’t capitalise on to permeate the rest of the film.

Grace Dove’s direction does come across as through the perspective of Kiri (Grant), it holds a strong youthfulness and even a naivety at times. It’s unusual for a film like this to use special effects, being purely a drama with a biographical edge, but it’s an interesting addition. It may not be perfectly convincing but it adds an adventure vein to the atmosphere. The locations these filmmakers were lucky enough to shoot in were perfectly chosen and have huge production value to add.

Isla Grant isn’t entirely given the lead as might be expected, splitting it with Tahmoh Penikett who plays her father, but she brings a sincere curiosity and it’s a shame the story wasn’t more succinctly told with her at the forefront. Penikett portrays a generosity and selflessness but he can also be slightly wooden, and moves the story into more sentimental territory rather than the heritage and cultural themes. Barbara Patrick and Patsy Tuba on the other hand are genuinely wholesome, touching and bring a light presence to the film.

Kiri and the Girl is a sweet and touching exploration of grief and loss in the Native American community, focusing on celebrating life and being in touch with the world. It’s only a shame it didn’t divide its attention more keenly to focus on Kiri, tending to slip into more sentimental or cliched territory. It’s shot in great locations and the style easily captures a youthfulness and curious atmosphere. It’s a kind and thoughtful reminder of how life, culture and heritage should be celebrated.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

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