Meeting Daddy UK 2011
Directed by Rebecca Rycroft
Warning: This review has spoilers. If you think you are going to get an opportunity to actually watch this film then avoid this article... and come back and read it afterwards... all readers welcome ;-).
Meeting Daddy is a short film produced by Michael Beddoes and both written and directed by an emerging talent known as Rebecca Rycroft... and that’s probably as far as I’m going to get now with any regular readers of this blog without people sharpening sticks and hurling them in my general direction. This, after I’ve quite clearly stated on this blog on more than one occasion that... “I don’t really do shorts.”
I know someone’s going to comment or tweet that so before I even get started on this review proper, let me just say the reasons I am now going to review another short movie on my blog. They are as follows:
1. It was actually quite a good movie and has excellent production values which put it firmly in the professional arena and “up there” in the same ballpark as some of the other shorts I’ve been reviewing recently.
2. Ever since I watched two really excellent shorts by Leilani Holmes I’ve realised that the short film format is actually a richer vein of celluloid virtue to mine than I’d given it credit for... so it’s time to let the shorts back in my life again after falling out with them big-time in the early 90s.
3. The producer, Michael Beddoes, invited me to the screening via Twitter and I was flattered that either something I’d written on this blog or something that I’d tweeted had somehow joggled him to invite me. Plus, on top of that, there was a reception for the screening in a pub after and the drinks were free... so the very least I could do after getting a free drink is write a review of this movie so he can see what I thought of it... and also see if said gentleman will want to invite me to another sometime (mine’s an orange juice guv’nor!).
So onto the film itself then.
Meeting Daddy starts with a credit sequence with an almost Hal Hartley sounding score which then turns out to be a pop song (Hysyteric by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) as we see a young girl in her early teens on a journey by bus and foot, with her earphhones jammed in and listening to her ipod. She is obviously... you know... meeting daddy... but the journey itself is probably one of the more interesting aspects of this film... more so than the destination perhaps because the component elements of that end result are all hinted at in this sequence. Two things really... or at least the two things I got out of it at any rate. One is generational difference and the other is the community in alienation.
When she gets to a café and meets with her father it transpires that the two are estranged, the father has left the family some years previous after having slept with a family friend. The father is jaded, perhaps a little cynical and less in touch with his offspring's needs and, indeed, the young and colourful world in which his daughter lives than she was possibly expecting. Similarly, her request for money to do a media course at College is met with a dull thud of rejection which perhaps demonstrates this gap between their lives which the daughter has thought special enough to bridge in person and ask her father for the money.
But, like I said, the early indications of this dynamic is heavily foreshadowed during that opening journey through the credits. Everything is bright colours which reflect the young world that this girl comes from. Her clothes are brightly coloured and she is even wearing a scarf with two bobble ends that hang down in front of her and firmly give off an echo of the double-pigtails that seems to have become synonymous with young, cute and naive. Even the world she inhabits is a world of London buses where the red is so much “redder than red” that it threatens to pop off the screen. This is all good stuff.
While waiting at the bus shelter she sees a father interacting with his child and she almost interacts with them... but then the moment is lost and this further shows the degrees of alienation between the world she has, perhaps, retreated to since her father left and this plays out in the remainder of the film where the father and daughter are talking but not really saying much of anything to each other... at least not what they’re thinking, which you can also hear in vivid detail by two voice-overs on the soundtrack.
As the opening credits sequence ends and the girl switches off her ipod, we discover that the song on what we thought was a non-diagetic soundtrack is in fact from a diagetic source. The on-screen source is the music from the girls earphones and this is perhaps a little indication of the importance of technology to the people in this film, since this is how people really communicate with each other in this century isn’t it... through technology?
I remember reading a couple of decades ago, long before emails and the influence of the internet on our world were anything we could even imagine, that one of the symptoms of a post-modern society is the dwindling of communication between people and their communities as the reach of technology expands. In those days they were just talking about things like phones and crystal sets and the invention of the newspaper etc but this course mankind is on seems even more relevant now than it ever was. Most people would rather, it seems, talk to people on an email or even a mobile phone than actually get together with them and talk face to face... people are seeing less and less of each other and this leads to communities alienated from each other by the very technology that brings them together in their virtual world.
This is pushed home like a blunt instrument in the last minute or so of the film. A subtly wielded blunt instrument, to be sure, because the film looks fantastic and is well edited, well directed and ultimately has a couple of flawless performances form the two lead actors playing the girl and her father - Clementine Starling and Ben Willbond. A blunt instrument none the less as the father and daughter have stopped communicating that well in person (although they seem to have done pretty well in the past via email... it’s an email summons from the daughter that has brought them to where they are now) and when the father sees a text come in on his mobile phone, he starts paying more attention to that than his daughter. Similarly, as she sees him do this, the daughter jams her earphones back into her ears and our non-diegetic soundtrack returns with a passion as the end credits roll and leave the father and daughter in a place where they can only really communicate in the spaces and safe havens between the technology... and not in the world of the face-to-face, up close and personal environment where such communication would be better existing... and I think it’s this gap between these two generations which best highlights the message of the film. There is comedy to be found within the running commentary inside the brains of these people, in the spaces between the worlds where their mouths take over their communication for them... but ultimately they are not being honest in any way with each other and this is a point made, almost chillingly in hindsight now I’ve had a few hours to reflect on this movie, by the moment when they both reach for their technology and begin to ignore each other.
There is a certain truth running at 24 frames per second in that last shot which perhaps, sadly as I’m very much a Twitter user, is a commentary on the world we all live in and is something which perhaps we could all do with being reminded of at certain times in our life when the technology takes over... I would probably be best running into a park with a megaphone and telling people about this movie there rather than in the more disaffecting venue of an electronic blog space but I choose not to and, frankly, I’ve never exactly been a great social animal when it comes to participating in communicative events. But that’s just me.
I think, ultimately, the stealth with which these concepts are put across in Meeting Daddy and which you aren’t even necessarily aware of when you first see the film until you reflect a little after, are a great strength of this movie. If this movie were a bottle of pills I’d probably recommend a prescription of this and similar pills to be taken by everyone on a regular basis... as a sad reminder of the uncommunicative nature of man in the 21st Century.
That is to say... Meeting Daddy is a sharp little film and it deserves to find an audience in whichever venue it turns up in. An intelligently written and subtly made film by a director who it may be worth keeping an eye on in future. Take a look if you get the offer!