‘Lady of the House’ Frames Suburban Bliss as a Self-Imposed Prison Sentence

By  · Published on March 14th, 2017

Short of the Day

A gripping, haunting, vital film.

For all its manicured lawns, clean sidewalks, and waving neighbors, there’s something inherently creepy and in fact menacing about suburbia. Filmmakers and authors from Tim Burton to Jonathan Franzen have tackled this notion of chaos behind closed doors, some more bombastically than others, but for my personal money, I prefer more subtle approaches like American Beauty or Everything Must Go where the struggle against the homogeny and suppressive aspects of suburban life is internalized, where the conflict is Man vs Himself and the environment is a fuel that makes the fire burn brighter.

Subtly is exactly how writer-director Brad Bischoff has approached his take on the issue in Lady of the House, a taut and emotionally-riveting short film starring Karina Villarreal as a former opera singer whose potential has flatlined and she’s found herself like so many other promising people, women in particular, regulated to the role of a stay-at-home parent, a job that’s harder than most with little to no recognition. Our heroine has two boys that run her ragged, a husband that hardly seems to notice her exhaustion, and a life of little reward but much exertion. It’s a situation that’s all too common but in the hands of Bischoff and Villarreal it becomes wholly fresh and unique, a character study of a creative soul in crisis all but extinguished by the humdrum of real life. As one particular day in her life continues to pile the burdens upon her, the film sneaks up on a tipping point that like the rest of the film is equally subtle and devastating. And no spoilers, but Villarreal really does have some amazing pipes.

Like a lot of my favorite short films, Lady of the House had its online premiere over at – a site y’all know I love and think you should too – and according to the write-up there Bischoff is currently at work on his first feature, The Grasshopper, which he’s described as a “suburban fever dream.” Sign me the hell up.

If you want to see more of Bischoff’s work – and I’m pretty sure you do – check out a handful of other shorts right here.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist