Greetings again from the darkness. Dramatic short films are challenged with generating an ultra-quick connection with viewers. German director Patrick Vollrath begins the film by showing a man anxiously pacing and buzzing the gate bell outside a suburban home. Our instincts that tell us he must be in some kind of trouble fade a bit when an 8 year old girl runs into his arms exclaiming “Daddy!”
Lea (newcomer Julia Pointer) clearly loves her father, and we quickly figure out this must be the scheduled every other weekend visit resulting from a recent divorce. Lea’s excitement is palpable as they stop off at a toy store where her dad tells her she can pick out any two items she wants. A simple gesture that’s probably repeated thousands of times each weekend, re-ignites the instincts we felt in the opening scene. Some “little” hints confirm our suspicion as the two hurriedly rush to an appointment at a government office and then on to the airport.
Simon Schwarz plays Michael Baumgartner, the dad who transitions from anxious to warm/loving to purely desperate. His performance, and that of young Ms. Pointer, are realistic and so spot on that we as viewers are sympathetic to both. It’s an exceptionally tense and dramatic half-hour reminding us that in a broken family, it’s rarely the case that “everything will be okay”, and sometimes things escalate into a literal tug-of-war that is heart-breaking. This is expert work from a filmmaker that understands the magic of short films, and it’s little wonder the film has been so well received at AFI, Cannes and numerous other festivals.