The story of a seven-year-old boy, Sam (Max Vento) who takes care of his mother, Rachel (Leanne Best) after she has survived from a stroke, with little to no help from his older sister, Jennifer (Katie Quinn).
Writer/ Director Nicholas Connor tasks himself with striking a delicate dramatic balance with Cotton Wool. In the wrong hands, the sensitive subject matter could easily falter into maudlin, misery-porn. Instead, he has woven a story of hopefulness, of new relationships formed from old, of tectonic shifts in the family dynamic and enduring love.
Leanne Best captures so much within a performance that is emotionally earthed and relatable. As someone who has seen family members suffer strokes, there is a sense of fear and hopelessness evoked in the opening scenes that is awfully palpable.
This terror is reinforced by an exceptional performance from young Max Vento. His reactions and subsequent journey are a bright spot within a film that takes the long way around to get to its familiar conclusion.
Benjamin Squires’ score is warm and filled with character. Alan C. McLaughlin’s photography is cinematic and bold. These are some very deliberate choices made to elevate a very grounded story. The family element (particularly the relationship between the mother and daughter) may initially appear somewhat overcooked and melodramatic but their arc stuck with me long after the credits rolled. The nature of crisis and its chaotic effect on people often leads to a fight or flight response, and this is something conveyed effectively by Best and Katie Quinn
What Nicholas Connor has accomplished is impressive. Cotton Wool takes a tricky subject, managing to spin new cloth from old, bolstered by strong performances in a short feature that looks and sounds gorgeous.
While Cotton Wool didn’t cause an emotional stir, it did give me pause to consider those I know who have been effected by harrowing medical conditions and those who dedicate their time and energy to support them.
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