“We’ve come too far to turn back”
It’s interesting how the phrase “everything will be okay” carries such a stigma of pandering deflection now. The words are for all intents and purposes meaningless in their true context, transformed instead to connote a sense of insecurity through hopeful platitudes without any sense of whether or not the situation will resolve itself in an “okay” manner at all. We try to soothe by saying it, but I’d argue we actually instill more trepidation. So when I saw the title of Patrick Vollrath‘s film, Alles wird gut [Everything Will Be Okay], I couldn’t help seeing it as an ominous calling card for something to become anything but. As such, young Lea’s (Julia Pointner) fun day with Dad (Simon Schwarz‘s Michael Baumgartner) quickly turns horribly wrong.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know the situation between Michael and his ex-wife (Marion Rottenhofer) is strained considering his arrival is met with impatient frustration before he even presses the button to open her gate to no avail. When he sees Lea he holds his arms out and suddenly she’s in the car without him giving a second glance to the woman who’s ostensibly taken his daughter away. It was probably his fault as to why custody is so unequal now, but you still can’t help feeling for him. Even when he does the whole absentee Dad shtick by taking her to the mall to pick out any toy she wants, we empathize with his attempts to connect and prove his love.
But the tone shifts and we start seeing the motives behind his generosity. Actions become bribes; fun activities tainted by unusual requests like a shift from goofy photo booth photos together to a more serious “neutral” portrait of Lea alone. To get to the fair they must sign something first and despite having the whole night together, one more go on the bumper cars will make them late. We know instantly what’s to happen as soon as the photo booth electronically utters its new command and to a point so does Lea. She recognizes something’s off, but youth prevents her from putting two and two together until reality finally breaks through the façade Michael has constructed. Eventually this little girl discovers she knows only too well.
What’s great about Vollrath’s look at a father’s desperation is his refusal to make him evil. We know Michael isn’t a bad guy—he’d never hurt his daughter or ex-wife. In his mind he’s been wronged, defeated by the system, and no other course of action to get back what he deserves exists. It’s a shattering performance of twitches; smiles fading to worry as friendly exchanges turn into dictatorial rules. Better yet is little Pointner whose innocence gradually fades to uncover skepticism and a keen appreciation for the unfortunate situation they’re in. Lea loves her dad and wishes him back at home with mom, but it isn’t up to her. Sadly divorce often proves as hard on the adults as the child. In this case more.
courtesy of Shorts HD