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Little Empty Boxes (2024)

-Written by Kyle Bain.


A filmmaker (Max Lugavere) chronicles the life of his mother, a woman struggling with dementia. Little Empty Boxes follows Max and Kathy as they tell her story, one that is challenging, heartbreaking, inexplicable–and viewers, along for the ride, will experience the harsh reality of Kathy’s existence. 


Little Empty Boxes does a beautiful job of shocking viewers at the start of the film. As the opening credits roll, viewers are pulled into Max’s world–one in which his mother, Kathy Lugavere, is living her best life. She clearly loves her family, she’s energetic, and she seems to, even through typical hardship, love life. As the credits end, and an adult Max takes the screen to make a phone call to his mother–we hear a very different woman pick up the phone. Her voice has aged, her energy has dissipated, and the woman that we had seen this beautiful montage of seems to exist no more. Had you not known the content of Little Empty Boxes prior to this, you would certainly have an understanding at this point. 


I’ve come to the realization that most documentaries can play out in the background, and that viewers can often still obtain and retain information from this style of filmmaking without having their eyes glued to the screen. This certainly isn’t a knock on this incredible artform, but rather my understanding that most documentaries don’t rely heavily on visuals, but rather the filmmaker(s)’ ability to tell a story. Little Empty Boxes is different. The relationship between Max and Kathy is appealing, and the way in which Max and Co-Director Chris Newhard frame this aspect of the film allows viewers to fall in love with both the characters and the film as a whole. 


Now, with that said, it’s important to note that there are portions of the film that sort of fade into the background. These moments consist of convoluted scientific explanations, and while these explanations are necessary to understanding Kathy’s journey–they do become tiresome. One can’t fault Newhard or M. Lugavere for these aspects of Little Empty Boxes, but had these parts of the film been shorter, it would have been easier to navigate through them and get back to what’s really important: Kathy and Max. 


While I used the word “shocking” toward the start of this review, I don’t want viewers to think that M. Lugavere and Newhard rely solely on shock value to appeal to their viewers, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that they understand how to captivate an audience, that they know what content will best appeal to their viewers and keep them engaged. I didn’t find myself gasping in some of the bigger moments, but sort of realizing the gravity of Kathy’s situation along with Max. Little Empty Boxes relies on the truth to appeal to viewers–and with the expertise of M. Lugavere and Newhard behind the production of the film, this works in the best way possible throughout. 


Unlike many other documentaries that can play in the background and still have the same effect on viewers, Little Empty Boxes tells a brilliant story that captivates viewers and keeps them engaged throughout. Again, this tells an incredible story, one that allows viewers to quickly fall in love with Max and Kathy, their relationship, and their journeys through life. 


Directed by Max Lugavere & Chris Newhard. 


Written by Chris Newhard.


Starring Max Lugavere, Kathy Lugavere, Bruce Lugavere, Ana Kasparian, Ben Lugavere, etc. 


8/10 = WORTH RENTING OR BUYING


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