(TORONTO, ON) – The Irish short Here Lies Mrs Higgins deftly illustrates that evil lurks amongst apparent innocence. The film commences with a host of Catholic religious symbolism before we see poor Mrs Higgins twisted and dead at the foot of the stairs in a rustic Irish cottage.
That leaves Tony and Brendan Higgins, her children, as the sole remaining occupants of the home until a crow becomes caught in the chimney. The younger Brendan names him John Crow, sine every living thing deserves a name.
A solicitor arrives at the door to read Mrs Higgins’ will, dated September 23, to the boys. Brendan receives her potted cactus before the will goes on to, oddly, say her favourite son Tony would receive the remainder of the estate.
Brendan loves to write short stories and, whilst writing yet another, spills a spoonful of beans on his foolscap. He tosses the stained paper in the kitchen garbage can and discovers the now dead John Crow. Obviously someone placed the crow in the receptacle.
Suddenly Tony begins to lose his innocence.
The innocence further fades when Brendan discovers a second version of their mother’s will bequeathing all the estate to himself. The scratches on Tony’s arm raises suspicion that, perhaps, there was a struggle and poor Mrs Higgins was thrown down the stairs by Tony.
Tony expresses his hatred of his mother and for Brendan’s short stories, which Mrs Higgins adored, but he describes as, “shite.” In a scuffle between Brendan and Tony, on the very stairs where Mrs Higgins toppled to her death, Tony slips and tumbles down the stairs, but survives.
To great acclaim, the local newspaper publishes one of Brendan’s short stories.
The three characters in this film are grossly quirky. One gets so engrossed with their quirkiness it requires some concentration to focus in on the equally quirky soundtrack. This is a raw, Irish Tim Burton equivalent. In fact it’s almost a Beetle Juice-ish attempt.
This short is a wonderful black comedy about familial dysfunction and evil within a Christian framework. This is quite a bit to digest in 15 minutes, but that is the power of film.
(Here Lies Mrs Higgins, director Daniel Holmwood, Ireland, 2016, 15 minutes, part of the Toronto Irish Film Festival Short Programme , 4 March 2017, Bell TIFF Lightbox)