Red, White and Blue (2023) Short Film Review

Red, White and Blue (2023)
Director: Nazrin Choudhury
Screenwriter: Nazrin Choudhury
Starring: Brittany Snow, Juliet Donenfeld, Redding Munsell, Mo Collins, Jud Tyler

It’s quite a country, the United States of America. It’s a continental land mass with the highest GDP of any country in the world, yet its citizens’ access to healthcare is determined by wealth not by need, placing the lives of every one of its people at the behest of racial wealth inequality, gendered wealth inequality, location wealth inequality, and the excess of third party agents (pharmaceutical companies, hospitals as private business ventures, ambulances owned by non-health organisations) that control supply based on financial demand, not by actual demand. It’s a system that puts the health of its people into the realm of the political and all of the tensions and prejudices that come with an increasingly divided political spectrum. This is not freedom, it is imprisonment; a threat of your life against your choices in it. It’s disgusting, and the whole world has known about it for a long time.

One of the latest attacks on healthcare in the United States is that which the far right have pursued in order to create an ideological divide amongst the nation’s people: abortion. Failing in the polls, and ousted by the left after one of the most embarrassing presidential terms in history (a history that includes fumbling buffoon George W. Bush), they created debate around the human right to an abortion, and in doing so sentenced tens of millions to fates undeserving, in a system that had already guaranteed their access to such help was limited by class and location. Around the country, ideology hounds have hunted en-masse in their white skin and their male sex to tell everyone else that abortion is murder, no matter the circumstances. Nazrin Choudhury’s short film Red, White and Blue, nominated in the Live Action Short category at the 96th Academy Awards, is one film that challenges such a perspective, telling of a mother travelling across state lines to get an abortion for reasons any of us would. In doing so, it challenges a system of oppression that has taken aim squarely at women, illuminating the darkest of stories that is likely to come from the political bastardisation of religious texts and traditional understandings of empathy.

One-time Pitch Perfect cast member Brittany Snow lends her well-known face and name to this story, starring as a hard-working mother earning her way as a waitress in a diner. She sleeps in her living room, her children are cared for from her place of her work, and she’s struggling. We open on her reading the result of a pregnancy test, and follow her as she scrambles for the money needed to drive eight hours across two states from Arkansas to Illinois to access the healthcare she so desperately needs to access.

For a 22-and-a-half minute film, it’s a story that unravels itself fairly slowly. Only at vital stages towards the end of the film are we told directly what we need to know about what is happening, what the purpose of the piece is, and so on, with the first half of the film instead quietly presenting small developments alongside character moments that earn our trust and care.

It is all photographed by Adam Suschitzky with a modern colour palette, making the most of the natural shapes of its locations and the natural light they provide. The director of photography’s camera never makes unnecessary movements, avoiding a cliché often found in short films that cheapens the presentation. This is documented with all the seriousness of its subject matter, and uses the edit of Phillip J. McLaughlin to solidify meaning and ensure emotional resonance.

“Emotional” is perhaps the one-word review for this short film. There’s an injustice that courses throughout, and a pain underpinning everything. There’s a lot of political commentary, sure, but this is a short that never loses sight of the humanity it’s presenting, the characters it almost effortlessly convinces us are real. To this end, there’s a narrative revelation that comes in the film’s second half that will floor you. It’s one of those moments in film where the hair on the back of your neck stands on end. It’s brutal, real, and needs to be seen.

From the outside, it’s almost impossible to comprehend why any place would ever be so in favour of banning abortion that they’d put it into law. It becomes totally impossible to comprehend this when understanding the United States of America as a land defined by its self-righteous slogan as “the land of the free”. How is that freedom? Red, White and Blue brings this so-called national pride, this constitutionally written garbage, into perspective, and it lets the world know how wrong and disgusting it is that people can ever look to take away such a freedom at any time, nevermind in the 2020s.

This is a powerful film that evokes the real-life shock and anger of a situation that has imprisoned millions to lives they do not want to lead, and presents it with a humane lens centred on empathy and love. Credit to writer-director Nazrin Choudhury for maintaining a healthy dose of love and care when presenting this story that makes you want to set current health legislation in the US on fire.

Red, White and Blue is must-see.

Score: 21/24

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Red, White and Blue is available to purchase on Vimeo.

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