How to Make Shepherd’s Pie is used with permission from Christen R. Carter. Learn more at https://instagram.com/christenrcarter.
Carla is a housewife living a quiet life in her suburban neighborhood, running errands and faithfully making dinner for her husband, Ben. Yet underneath the seemingly contented facade, Carla seems to be struggling, both in and out of the marriage.
When she gets some good news about her future, it offers her a ray of hope. But her husband is too wrapped up in his affairs to pay much attention — even at a moment when Carla needs his help and comfort the most.
Directed and written by Christen R. Carter, this short drama is a portrait of a woman disappearing within her own home and quietly dysfunctional marriage. Lonely and neglected, she’s lost the ability to assert herself — a loss that she confronts in a small but painful way, rendered in storytelling that explores the tension between a quiet surface and the roiling feelings and thoughts underneath it.
Filmed with a quiet, composed naturalism, the narrative’s power rests on the precision and emotional delicacy of the character-centered writing, particularly capturing the small but telling moments that make up Carla’s emotional life. There are hints early on that all is not well in the marriage, from the overfamiliarity of the young grocery store cashier with Ben’s life to a conversation with neighbors, which offers details that ruffle Carla to hear, perhaps for the first time.
But the core of the conflict comes when Ben arrives home early from fishing, just after Carla receives some life-changing news for herself. His interactions with Carla are ostensibly friendly and easygoing, especially with his friend with him. But he also exhibits little curiosity about Carla herself, perhaps in the way that spouses in long-running marriages take each other for granted. Carla exists in the hum of the background, making life comfortable and serving as a mirror and sounding board. Carla accepts this as the natural state of things — until she can’t any longer.
As Carla, actor Ferlith Young excels in suggesting the weight of years in her expressions, from her downcast eyes to the heavy, cowed way she carries herself. Withdrawn from her own life, it’s taken years for Carla to get to this state, and it takes something quietly drastic to shake her, and perhaps Ben, out of it. In the end, the two spouses truly see one another for the first time in awhile — and perhaps are shocked at what they discover. We’re not sure what the path ahead is for the pair, but it’s clear something has to change going forward.
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A woman prepares her husband’s favorite meal — with a new twist. | How to Make Shepherd’s Pie
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