Directed by Patrick Vollrath (German, 30 minutes)
The title translates to Everything Will Be Okay. This is a short film about a divorced father’s attempts to flee the country with his young daughter. For about the first third of the thirty minute film, we’re not quite sure what the father, Michael, is up to, but he reeks of desperation. He picks up his daughter, Lea, from her mother, and suddenly they’re off.
Michael takes care of her, but he does so with such pomp and circumstance (is that how you use that phrase?) that you know there’s something else he really wants beyond just his daughter’s happiness. He takes her to a toy store with promises to take her elsewhere as soon as they run a few errands. He pretends they’re in a photo booth but insists Lea look as straight-faced as possible for what turns out to be her emergency passport photo.
We figure out what Michael is up to before Lea does, but soon she understands that her father’s weird behavior isn’t normal. Despite our own awareness expanding past Lea’s, the film puts us in her shoes, making us feel what it’s like to have your life completely upended and taken over by a more powerful force.
The majority of the film is handheld (or perhaps shot with a steadicam), shot in medium and close ups. The film is always a little claustrophobic, and everything feels just a little unstable.
We never see the entire scene, typically shot in an establishing wide shot. Instead we’re thrust into a new environment without ever truly grasping where we are, just like Lea. She’s along for the ride without knowing where that ride is headed.
When Lea finally takes action, while her father is asleep in their hotel room, it occurs in a contained space in which both she and we can grasp the entirety of the location. Just like Lea, we get our feet under ourselves, and the question no longer becomes ‘what’s Michael doing,’ instead becoming, ‘How does Lea save herself?’
She makes a call to her mother, letting her know where they are, and the next morning Lea’s mother arrives with the police. In an effectively heartbreaking sequence, Michael clings to his daughter, pleading for her to forgive him. He realizes he’ll likely never see her again, and Lea becomes more of the adult in the situation. With Michael down on his knees, he’s smaller in the frame than Lea who literally looks down on him and tries to tell him to be strong.
Soon she is whisked away by the police and her mother, looking over her shoulder with a mix of concern and fear, all while her mother insists “everything will be okay.”
Is Everything Will Be Okay a tragedy? It’s certainly close. We don’t know what compels Michael to act the way he does, and he we don’t need to. He’s not a villain though he certainly takes on a villainous role. His character is sad, and he uses that sadness as a weapon.
For Lea, this is something like a coming of age story but a harsh one. She is forced to act as the adult in a situation that could potentially become life-threatening. She has to watch her father breakdown around her, and through that identify the destruction of one of the pillars of her own world view. She triumphs, in the end, and acts to save herself, using her better judgment. It’s a moment that forces her not to ignore something that could be very easy to overlook. Her father was a point of stability in her life, and within a single day she understood that this pillar was crumbling, and she acted immediately and accordingly.
So maybe there’s something uplifting about this, about the end, but the whole story is incredibly sad. Some people are forced to grow up quickly due to special circumstances. The film seems to celebrate Lea’s strength while also mourning the situation that requires such strength.