Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 7 minutes | Release Date: 2013 (Australia)
Studio: Dreaming Tree Productions
Director(s): Ben Howling & Yolanda Ramke
Writer(s): Yolanda Ramke

What would you do amidst a zombie apocalypse after discovering your baby daughter thus far spared in the backseat and a gaping wound on your arm signifying an expiring clock before making her your first meal as an undead daywalker? The options seem few: secure her somewhere high, run far away without looking back, and hope she’s found or perform a mercy killing to ensure she’ll never be turned into the monster you’re about to become. Both solutions are a death sentence, so the choice is ultimately one made out of optimistic naivety with a side of moral inability to do the unthinkable or pessimistic pragmatism built from our desire to play God in a God-less world.

Directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (who also wrote the screenplay) beg to differ, however, as they come up with an alternative plan of utter selflessness possessed by the potential—albeit very small—of saving her life. Their seven-minute short CARGO drops us into the action just as the father in question (Andy Rodoreda) realizes the situation he is in. With his wife (Alison Gallagher) ceaselessly lunging against her seatbelt restraint next to him upon waking, no one else is available to care for the innocent child (Ruth Venn) destined to lose her Dad as well. He’s her last chance at survival as well as her ultimate harbinger of death and only some quick thinking steeped in love can provide salvation.

Gorgeously shot in deliberately composed frames with minimal field depth allowing for the hauntingly melancholy pull of focus in its most tragic scenes and informative close-ups for the crucial plot development leading to its ingenious end, CARGO is a beautiful depiction of familial bond and the lengths we’ll go to save those we love. Watching this father work at making his child smile despite the pain and suffering surrounding her blissful ignorance is as enchantingly sweet as his acquiring of necessary supplies is bittersweet once we comprehend the endgame of his plan.

Subtle and nuanced, Rodoreda transforms from man to beast with a care not often allowed inside a genre intent on treating its greatest asset as an unsympathetic evil. Howling and Ramke don’t have time to ruin their characters with inauthentic dialogue or hamfisted scheming and instead let them breath heavy and act out of fear since only one rule remains for a semblance of order—kill or be killed. But despite this creed and the ambivalence that sets in once your numbers dwindle and your ammunition disappears, humanity yearns to survive extinction too. One man’s struggle to save a life cannot go unnoticed and the discovery of his sacrifice can only help infuse a glimmer of hope inside the hopeless existence of those still alive.

Watch it for yourself at YouTube.

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