Mentre Te Ne Vai (AKA The Child Who Fades Away) is a difficult beast to review. On the one hand, it tackles a sensitive, real problem with dignity and an authenticity that is genuinely admirable. At the same time, however, it feels less of a short film, and more a clunkily devised advertisement with a great mission statement, but an unclear narrative. While it clearly tries to tug at the heartstrings by delivering a compelling mid-twist, it clumsily falls down on itself. That said, it isn’t devoid of merit. Its commendable intentions show clear passion and devotion from its creators, who deserve credit for pushing this vitally important message. Sadly, the film is too heavy handed; a mixed bag of quality that is ultimately unfocused, suggesting that it was perhaps created in the wrong medium.
With a more coherent narrative that focused on a single idea, the landing could’ve stuck. The decision to focus on the parents, followed by a jarringly disparate second scene, then a second left turn into documentary land, makes for a tone and structure that is wildly inconsistent. The middle segment is by far the strongest, with the sweet performance from young Sofia Rivera, recounting what could’ve been her life, as a clear highlight. This concept is a great one, and had the emphasis been on this segment alone, it could’ve been an impressively focused short. As it is, however, the writing stands as the weakest element.
The performances are passable, though none stand out bar the sincere voiceover of Sophie Crombie, coupled with the charm of Rivera. The parent characters aren’t captivating; the lack of potent or believable grief leads to performances that aren’t entirely authentic. There are moments, such as the father’s look into his daughter's eyes, that hint at real emotion, but they’re overshadowed by the heavy-handed voiceover towards the film’s end. The voice actor isn’t awful, but his somewhat dull performance in addition to his placement in the narrative is more confusing than compelling.
The musical choices equally present a mixed bag. The opening acoustic guitar-based song works to set a melancholic scene, but the final track is on the nose and too much of an obvious choice. A focus on subtlety would go a long way in general for the film. The quiet underscoring piano supports the middle segment well, crafting organic empathy within the audience before they even have an idea of the full extent of the girl’s condition. The lack of music in the ending segment also works, strengthening the severity of the situation, so credit must be given to the restraint shown.
In terms of #filmmaking, there isn’t anything particularly special, and again, it feels like it’s shot more as a promotional video than a short film. The wide shots at the beginning are nice, but it's unclear what the establishment of place does for this story, when the message is so apparent during the climax. Editing wise, it’s also basic, which would’ve been appropriate, had the whole film revolved around the middle segment.
Overall, Mentre Te Ne Vai is a noble effort that deserves to be seen for the awareness it raises for an important cause. As a promotional awareness video, it should be applauded for its very existence. As a short film, however, it fails. The lack of structure or coherent narrative, jarring musical choices, and lacking focus on one clear idea, damage its integrity. The filmmakers should be commended for their efforts in publicising such a horrific disease, but in this choice of medium, the output is a mess. That said, I strongly urge that you do take the final message to heart and find out more about DIPG. It’s information that every parent or would be parent should be familiar with.