Directed by: #MariaDeSanctis
Oscar Wilde once wrote: “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” Few more honest words have ever been written, and none that so perfectly encapsulates Father by Law - Maria De Sanctis’ stunning short film about regret and reconciliation.
Liz (Annie Clark) and Eddie’s (Mike Bash) wedding is a picturesque and intimate family affair; the perfect wedding day in every way. That is until Liz’s estranged father, Dale (William Russ), turns up (late) for the wedding – which he hasn’t been invited to anyway – interrupting the nuptials. Dale’s desperate to reconnect with his daughter and, after missing walking her down the aisle – stepfather Steve (Andrew Hamrick) had the honours – he wants the father-daughter dance, an honour he feels he’s entitled. But to get Liz even to accept his presence, Dale will have to face up to some harsh truths and make sacrifices he never thought he’d have to make.
Father by Law’s characters are shining examples of characterisation done right: superbly written development of characters that are relatable, believable and outstandingly realised by the actors portraying them. Liz and Dale’s relationship is the focal point here, and it’ll come as no surprise to anyone that they carry much of the movie’s emotional weight. It’s quite the weight to bear, and yet both Clark and Russ bear it with ease, with fantastic dialogue that’s devoid of any of the usual over-dramatised rubbish, and bursting with naturalistic vigour and heartfelt sentiment.
The very title “Father by Law” suggests a broken relationship, full of resentment and with a patchy history; of patriarchal negligence. Liz doesn’t see Dale as her father. She resents that fatherhood is something Dale can claim when – she feels – he’s not earned the right to it. Dale doesn’t feel the same. Not able to understand that he’s done anything wrong, he can’t even accept that Liz thinks he has. So here we have two points of view to consider: Liz’s pent-up resentment and Dale’s selfish need for reconciliation. Neither is conducive to a happy ending for either party. The key to saving this father-daughter relationship is Liz accepting that, while her father clearly made mistakes, he does love her deeply. And Dale accepting that he’s made mistakes in the past that he can’t take back, and acknowledging his daughter’s right to be angry about that. Acceptance, the one thing that binds them, is the key.
Sanctis’ direction actively flaunts the visual aspects of the movie, notably Anthony Mangini’s stellar cinematography (Sanctis herself is also a cinematographer, so this makes sense), which she utilises to display much of the film’s emotional power. Father by Law is visually exquisite, with plenty of beautiful imagery that accentuates Hannah Reynold’s gorgeous costume design. That’s not to take away from any other aspect of the film, of course. Spencer Creaghan’s musical score is really quite something. It’s just that’s not where the focus lies, at least for the better part.
In case you can’t tell, I really enjoyed Father by Law. As a father myself, I found it to be a profoundly affecting little movie about humanity, reconciliation, consideration and acceptance. But almost anybody would, and Its appeal is universal. It’s widely available for free on YouTube, and at only 20-minutes long, you’ve got no reason not to give it a go.