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If anything happens, I love you.
Recently Netflix released a short animated film, If Anything Happens I Love You, on Nov. 20. The plot of the short film revolves around a couple whose child passed away during a school shooting. Throughout the film, the parents fall into conflict, attempting to cope with their daughter’s death.
Written and directed by Michael Govier and William McCormack, the Netflix production made its unexpected appearance during the quarantine. While it is overshadowed by the much larger events in 2020, the film essentially opens a Pandora’s box on one of today’s most troubling issues regarding school safety, told by a story that will ring true for many families. From the childlike animation to the simple storytelling, it captures a heartbreaking tale of the grief that many people face due to one of the United States’ biggest concerns: gun violence.
The short film starts with the parents eating their dinner on opposite ends. The shadows that appear behind them are arguing in their stead, conveying to the audience that there is an existing conflict at the start of the story. However, because of the lack of oral communication, we do not know why. As the film goes on, the parents follow a series of flashbacks of their daughter from objects that trigger their memories, confirming the viewer’s suspicions that something has happened to her; in fact, she is no longer with them. The new revelation to the family’s situation really impacts audience members on the devastating aftermath of parents seeing their child for the last time. Oftentimes, horrific occurrences such as this one are always told with hard, cold facts by news reports and videos, but rarely do we ever see how these specific events affect individuals in the long run. With news upon these tragic events, the film reveals to the audience that this metaphorical tale reflects upon a scenario of loss that someone has likely undergone in real life.
Consequently, the dialogue-less characters depict a realistic situation graphically, as the parents do not speak to one another to avoid confronting the obstacle of their daughter’s death. As they wander among their house, there are still traces of memories of their child. What serves as dialogue would be the shadows of their characters and the dark colors, which captures each character’s emotions. The film’s visuals provide a haunting perspective on how many children and families fear that one day they might not ever have the chance to see one another again.
The shot is well-executed as it shows their daughter at school in one scene, and all of a sudden, waves of light and laughter turn into screams and dread as gunshots fire. To the fear of many families, the shift in scenes leads up to the daughter sending her final message: “If anything happens, I love you.” The direction the film takes reveals the dreadful reality of what many go through. Students, who do not know if they will be safe in school, and families, who do not know if their child will return, are under constant fear of what could occur at the place within and outside of school.
The heart-wrenching short film has captured the attention of many as it focuses on a huge issue in the United States: gun control. Many school shootings have occurred for the past decade and are gradually increasing as the issue remains unaddressed. This twelve-minute short film helps show the results of what happens when major problems go unsolved. In efforts to raise awareness of this issue, the producers reached out to actress Laura Dern and her partner Jayme Lemons, known for their work with the nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety. With the help of the two, the producers were able to create this brilliant short film that encapsulates the toll that gun violence takes on victims and their families.
Despite major praise, some argued that the film is focusing on an issue that is no longer relevant due to the pandemic. Although it is not the “highlight” of this year, gun violence still remains a primary issue within the United States and the world. Would we be safe after the pandemic? What about in the future? The answer would be most likely no, as it is a problem that has never been properly solved. The pandemic only temporarily halted the issue as schools were closed. Ultimately, the film addresses that it should be a priority for society as unnecessary violence has led to the deaths of many innocent people, which needs to be confronted.
Upon the last few minutes of the film, it showcases a bright American flag raised high up above the school doors before the unfortunate event happens. Although short and simple, the unique and unpolished style effectively conveys the themes of overcoming grief in light of harsh reality.