Directed by David Bradburn
Starring Sean Patrick Leonard, Samantha Jaloway, Jack Patrick Leonard and Anne Jacques
Short Film Review by Annie Vincent
Director David Bradburn and writer Sean Patrick Leonard have produced a raw and moving snapshot of family grief that really tugs somewhere deep in your stomach.
Two months on from the death of his wife in a tragic car accident, John is struggling with his grief, whilst trying to be a good dad to his two young children. He has turned to drink and prescription drugs in a bid to function as normally as possible, but every day is a battle.
As debut film writing goes, Sean Patrick Leonard has begun well with Rockabye. This glimpse into a family living under a tragic shadow will strike a chord with any audience. The script is very emotive and must have taken some strength to deliver. Leonard doesn’t hold back in his portrayal of a good, yet emotionally battered man who cannot come to terms with his loss and in all honesty, doesn’t really want to. He shuffles around the house day after day, downing beer, swallowing pills and nibbling on the leftovers from last night’s dinner. He has sustained his own injuries in the car accident that killed his wife so movement is difficult and when he falls to the kitchen floor in one particular scene, you understand the difficulty he faces in getting up is not just physical.
The most poignant moment is towards the end of the film when his daughter asks why her mother cannot come home. Here, the writing beautifully combines that raw pain we’ve seen since the beginning, with a tiny fleck of humour: the kind we would all need to cling on to if life ever dealt us this sort of blow. When he tells little Judy he doesn’t ‘fucking know’ why their mother can’t come up, she tells him he needs a ‘fucking time-out’ because he says ‘fucking, too much’. Queue the tears and tissues mixed with smiles and feint laughs. This ability to deal with difficult topics in a more original way is to be applauded. We can all recall films where young children ask these difficult questions, but nowhere have we seen a response quite like this one and it is endearing.
And it doesn’t end on the hopeful clichés we may expect either. John doesn’t suddenly find a cure for his grief just as no one in the real world ever does. He does decide to ditch the bottle of whiskey he started drinking that morning and we applaud these determined baby steps, but part of the brutal honesty of Rockabye is that grief like this takes a horribly long time to recover from.
Bradburn and Leonard have delivered a moving portrayal of the acute suffering of a man and his children; it’s no wonder the film is already picking up award nominations on the festival circuit.