“I don’t cheat”
Using baseball as the metaphor to an underdog life of disrespect, the short film Caught utilizes a recreation league’s championship game as the release of starting catcher Hannah’s (Lori Martini) naïve reliance on her family for a love they’ll never share. Trash-talking her brother Robbie (Daniel Braver)—stuck in a leg brace and batting for the opposing team—we see the strained bond of the present mixed with flashbacks full of disappointing letdowns from the past. Words spoken and characters’ actions witnessed at the game are explained by these glimpses back in time as the scowl permanently etched to Hannah’s face becomes justified and the need for a victory crucial to her emotional and psychological well-being.
Directed by soap writer Elizabeth Page and scribed by Martini, the film is a welcome character study portraying an extreme example of parental favoritism. We never find out what happened to the father in their story, but whatever it was that made him disappear is taken out on Hannah as far as her mother (Catherine Curtin) is concerned. Short tempered and mean to the girl, the overcompensation of love given Robbie seems rooted in the thought that losing the other male of the family will destroy her. Hannah is the responsible one in school and life, but it’s her brother that reaps all reward. She’d do anything for even an acknowledgment of existence, but the dream to move away becomes her only solace of escape.
The way in which the story unfolds is intriguing because every character is introduced anonymously before discovering their identity through Hannah’s memories. A fiercely unlikeable woman slams her cooler onto the bleachers overlooking the ball game; a coolly confident player in blue looks untouchably arrogant approaching the plate; and a skimpily dressed fan blowing him kisses appears to be the stereotypical distraction aging men keep as trophies from a parallel life lost. These are the vultures circling Hannah at home plate and they are her Mom, brother, and brother’s girlfriend, Evelyn (Nicole Balsam), respectively. It’s an episode of “This is Your Life” happening in real time, their hostility and indifference towards her finally too much to shrug aside.
Flashbacks allude to a loss of innocence. Young Hannah (Anne Stevens Koloski) finds herself growing old too fast because dreams of a perfect family like the one she mimes in her dollhouse are impossible. Walking to the store alone for groceries at ten, she yearns for the simple joy a pack of cards can bring since there’s always a Coke on the list for Robbie. A slap in the face and a refusal to attend practice are the thanks received by Mom upon return and we can infer incidents like this happened throughout the next twenty years after seeing the woman’s cheering her son while Hannah looks on from the field. Coupling this loveless bond with the one of manipulation on behalf of her brother and you wonder if she’ll ever learn how her show of kindness will never be reciprocated.
I feel the ending touches upon this realization, but possibly fades too soon for us to process the ramifications of what occurs. Only Hannah is allowed growth—understandably as it is her story—and yet her path needs to take a detour away from the high road in order to find her elusive off ramp. While the others continue to try and push her around for their bidding as they climb over her to an inevitably brief victory, she must find a way to quiet her compassionate heart and selfishly move towards salvation alone. Martini’s performance lets us feel her pain as attempts to connect with Robbie and Mom fall flat. Her final act before letting them walk away becomes honest in its dishonesty and the only conclusion worthy of the tale told.
 Lori Martini
 Daniel Braver
 Cynthia Koloski
courtesy of the film’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/shortfilmcaught