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KLARA’S BOX

What would you do if a complete stranger told you that a trusted but not altogether trustworthy family friend had committed the ultimate betrayal? Would you be quick to change your perspective on someone that you love or would you remain steadfast in what you’ve always believed? So goes Klara’s (ZhuZha Akova) dilemma in Klara’s Box, a short film penned by Kat Cee and Corey Chavers, directed by Akova.

Shortly after the death of her father, Vasyly (Igor Grbesic) offers to plug one of Klara’s bleeding holes by offering her an easy job for easy money. Reluctant to accept one of Vasyly’s shady side hustles at first, a quick survey of her meager funds causes Klara to acquiesce. Mid-run, she encounters Jack (Adam Fried), a former cop and acquaintance of her deceased father who warns Klara about Vasyly’s slippery and deceitful ways. Although Klara thought she was done with hard choices, she quickly realizes that taking this job is a cake walk compared to what she faces now.

With stellar direction by Akova and expert sound mixing by Curt Norris, it’s crystal clear why Klara’s Box racked up “best” prizes and nominations at the Beyond Hollywood International Film Festival and others. From the opening sequences, the pulsating music interwoven into the story line serves as a character itself, baring the belly of the underworld. Coupled with the smooth traffic and city atmosphere, it evokes the style of a Michael Mann film.

Akova’s performance as a grieving and struggling daughter propels the plot forward. As Klara, she takes us on a journey fraught with mystique. The body language and dialogue between Akova and Grbesic denote a relationship that is both familial and familiar. With very little screen time, Grbesic’s Vasyly is empathetic, warm and embodies everything that you’d expect a caring uncle to be. It isn’t until Akova’s interactions with Fried do things start to get stilted and uncomfortable. Although the resident doomsayer in this film, his demeanor doesn’t communicate the gravity of his words. There’s almost a film of Ryan Reynolds-like humor right beneath his facade. Akova’s scenes with Fried also suffer from underdevelopment. Not enough transpires to warrant the abrupt ending.

With a running time just shy of 15 minutes, Klara’s Box takes you on a ride that is rife with mystery and tension. Matt Fore’s cinematography and editing sharpen each scene, and the story captures and maintains your interest. Aside from some questionable performances and plot points, Klara’s Box is a box worth opening.

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