Whether sudden or expected, the death of a loved one is something we can never prepare for. Grief is not easy. Imagine you stumble across an old item — a beloved sweatshirt, a collar with a bell on it or a trinket in the back of a cabinet. You start to remember all the good memories associated with them — your uncle’s laugh, the hours spent playing with the family cat, your grandma’s tendency to collect Jesus figurines. For a second, you run through every memory associated with this person, from the minute detail of your first meeting with each other until … you remember why you are remembering them in the first place. They’re gone.
This is what watching “If Anything Happens I Love You” is like. It’s like a punch to the gut.
In this short film by Michael Govier and Will McCormack, we see two parents grieving the loss of their daughter in a school shooting. With a run time of only 12 minutes, it does an amazing job of displaying the grieving process after a traumatic event. For a film about such a sensitive subject, there is actually no violence shown in the whole film. The closest instances of violence are the sounds of gunshots and police sirens. Instead, we are shown the tense interactions the parents have with each other after losing their daughter. They are awkward, distant and unwilling to be around one another, ultimately unable to connect due to overwhelming feelings of grief. It’s heart-wrenching to watch, as the audience knows both parents are hurting but have no idea how to support each other or process what happened.
The film’s art style is initially simplistic but for good reason. The movie’s black-and-white animation might seem like it came straight from a storyboard, but the art style helps portray how the parents are feeling in their time of vulnerability. It is not until the Mom finds a piece of her daughters’ clothing that this film truly begins to shine. Here, the film bursts into faded watercolor to portray the ghosts of the past: their daughter’s life from family road trips to her first kiss. As the parents bond over the happy memories they made with her, they are finally able to support each other in their devastating moment of grief.
Did I also mention that not a single word is spoken in this film as well? The movie relies entirely on the expressions of the characters to display their grief, sadness, anger, confusion and overall vulnerability.
This short film does not hold back in delivering its gut-punches. There is no “true” happy ending. No deus ex machina that brings their daughter back to life. Just like real life, the parents must go on. They may not fully recover from what happened. (I mean, could anyone?)
The film’s whole message is about unexpected tragedy and how we react to it. So while it’s good to mourn, it’s never good to do it by yourself, especially when there are others who might be going through the same thing. Never shut people out, whether they are lending out a helping hand or not, because you both may need each other at the end of the day.
Also, if this film has taught me anything, it’s that life is too dang short. Call your parents, your caregivers, siblings or anyone that cares for you. Just tell them “If Anything Happens I Love You.”
Title: “If Anything Happens I Love You”
Directors: Michael Govier, Will McCormack
Starring: Lindsay Marcus
Shamrocks: 5 out of 5
Contact Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org