A Year in Shorts Day 232: "Father and Daughter"

Happy Father’s Day, fellow Oscar Baiters! As I’ve said a few times by now, while films about father/son relationships can often leave me cold, I am a sucker for a good film about fathers and daughters. Why that is, I can not say, although I’m certain a psychologist could easily put their kid through college discovering the answer. In addition to that, regular readers of the blog may remember my love for the art style of Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit. So with all that in mind, it could easily be assumed that I would absolutely love de Wit’s Oscar-winning 2000 short, Father and Daughter. I mean come on! It’s in the name! But is that the case? There’s only one way to find out.

(via TV Tropes)

Much like The Monk and the Fish, Father and Daughter is a wordless short, its story told entirely in de Wit's lovely watercolor visuals. Unlike The Monk and the Fish, Father and Daughter is a very serious short. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's incredibly depressing! (What else can we reasonably expect from the Dutch?) While its title (and my introduction) might make you think this is a film about the relationship between its two title characters, said relationship is mostly defined by the father's absence. After the father gets on a boat one day (presumably for work) and never returning, the daughter rides her bike to the spot from which he left every day in the hopes he'll come back. Believe it or not, it gets more depressing from there!

While a large part of this film's appeal is due to its animation, I would like to take a moment to talk about the score. Written by Normand Rodger (who recently wowed us all with his exemplary work on The Man Who Planted Trees) and Denis L. Chartrand, the score is responsible for a lot of the emotional heft present in this film. As much as I adore de Wit's style, it doesn't necessarily lend itself well to heartfelt or heartbreaking moments. His characters are fun to look at, but they're not particularly expressive. So Rodger and Chartrand's score do a lot of the heavy lifting, providing the film with a pervasive feeling of melancholy and nostalgia. It is a little repetitive, but that fits in with the film's story, so it works out. Plus, the score is just wall to wall accordions. I love accordions!

(via TV Tropes)

But at the end of the day, the real star of the film is de Wit's animation. And while it might not be as colorful as The Monk and the Fish, it's still a beautiful film. He makes especially great use of negative space in this film, the pervasive white on screen perfectly representing the father's absence. And I really do love the watercolor aesthetic; it's one I wish we'd see used more often. I especially took note of de Wit's shadows, as well as the way he animates water. It's just a good-looking film, you know?

Still, while Father and Daughter is undeniably great, I can't quite say that I loved it. Why that is I can't entirely say. Perhaps it's just because the score can only do so much heavy lifting in the tear jerking department. Maybe I wanted more of the father and daughter's relationship. Or maybe I'm just bitter that it beat Rejected for the Oscar. (I can be a petty bitch like that from time to time.) Whatever the case may be, Father and Daughter is nevertheless a lovely little film and a beautiful (if depressing) way to celebrate Father's Day.

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