Cute counts. When a cute person helps to communicate what a film has to offer, it can layer the telling and boost the message. The twenty-one year old Australian centering the documentary short “Murder Mouth” is deeply, sincerely cute.
“I’ve never killed anything bigger than a spider,” Madeleine Parry says on the road to deciding, “If I can’t kill it, I won’t eat it.”
On camera, she kills a fish, a chicken, and a sheep. On camera she displays more than a dozen shades of anxiety, all genuine, all cute. Everyone with anything to say about whether to eat meat should see this film.
Madeleine had little problem cutting up a fish. However, she was visibly astonished when her uncle suggested the best way to kill a fish for dinner: transport it in a bucket of water and cook it live.
With her great grandma at her side, she wields an ax over a chicken. Madeleine hesitated through nervous smiles and other milestone tensions. First whack, she missed. Second whack, she didn’t chop clean through. Eating that chicken felt so different than any other time she’d eaten meat.
Madeleine needed more mental preparation and a sheep rancher’s guidance to kill a mammal. Eating lamb in Australia is as fundamental as eating gets Down Under. The rancher makes no big deal of it but says he apologizes to every sheep he shoots.
“Sorry,” Madeleine whispers, as she fires the rifle touching the sheep’s head. Sniffling, sighing, she cuts, cuts, cuts the head. The sheep keeps kicking after death.
For all the cuteness in the Madeleine Parry delivery system for this film, nothing channels the sensibility more than switching from a light-hearted meal with friends to showing them video footage of her killing the sheep.
This film makes no diatribe but it does put murder where its mouth is. Madeleine still likes meat, but she knows what it means to say that it is not whether you want to eat meat. It’s whether you want to kill to have it.