Full disclaimer: InReview was provided with a screener for the following film.
The innocence of children in even the most trying of times is a common topic of exploration in film, most likely because their inability to fully understand the circumstances they’re in oftentimes deeply contrasts with the severity of the situation. The 2019 short film “MOUSIE”, which is still making its way through film festivals because it released very late that year, covers this subject through the eyes of Helene (Sasha Watson-Lobo), a seven-year-old Roma refugee in 1936 Germany who is being watched over by cabaret performer Katharina (CJ Johnson), who rescued her after her parents were taken by the Nazis.
The film revolves around Katharina hiding Helene until the two can escape to America, where they hope to be free to start a new life. Despite working in a Nazi cabaret, it’s clear that Helene doesn’t like it there, and the production itself it pretty sad and offensive — the entertainment they provide is crass and cheap, provided alongside dinner for the few guests the venue still has, who are disrespectful.
Danger strikes when an awkward SS conscript named Otto (Jack Bennett) takes a liking to Katharina, and ignores her attempts to turn down his advances. Following her backstage, Helene is at risk of being found, and it doesn’t help that, as a child, she doesn’t fully understand the situation, and she refuses to listen to Katharina.
I’m not going to spoil this film because it’s worth your time, but speaking generally, the film’s final scene is its best, and there is fantastic tension throughout the film. Director David Bartlett has great command of this film’s subject, and as a result, he was able to make a film that will make the viewer sweat, especially as Helene repeatedly dances around certain capture and death.
The film is competent on a technical level, and extraordinary on an emotional level. I would really love to see a feature-length film from this director.