The Balloon Girl
24 May 2022
Charis Park, Rosie Grypma
A little girl keeps meeting her mother at the bus stop after school, until one day, something changes.
This short film begins with scenes repeatedly showing similar events: A young schoolgirl (Park) arriving at a bus stop after school, where her mum (Grypma) is sitting on a bench, holding a heart-shaped balloon, waiting for her and they joyfully greet each other before walking away together. The scenes are not identical, clearly showing the characters' routine and with different clothing, different colour balloon and the same actions done differently. This repetition continues until, finally, the girl reaches the bench, only to find that her mother absent, and a red balloon tied to the bench.
With a duration of approximately three minutes, this beautiful and moving short delivers a lot. It starts of with happiness and blissfulness, concentrating on the sweet relationship between mother and daughter and then the atmosphere changes dramatically when the girl finds herself alone at the bus stop. Her smile disappears and she remains there, sitting on the bench, holding the red balloon and not knowing what to do. The viewers can feel her isolation and sadness.
The film was shot in a way that makes it appear like a stage play, with the camera static and often filming from the same angle. The whole narrative takes place at the bus stop and the mise-en-scene includes a bench, a bus stop sign, bushes and it is indicated that it is spring, as there are brown leaves on the ground and the protagonists wear scarves and bobble hats.
The colours and lighting are two of the strongest aspects here. The terrific cinematography that Evan Zhang provides includes both colour and black-and-white. The colour scenes are the happy ones, the ones where the daughter keeps on meeting with her mother. The image switches to black-and-white when the girl is all by herself, highlighting the bad feelings that she is experiencing, such as emtpiness and loneliness. Interestingly, during the black-and-white scenes, the only other colour that is present is red, which is the colour of the balloon, the string and the girl's jacket.
The filmmakers effectively utilise sound effects that create the sound of the unseen school bus arriving and the laughter of children. Composer Martin de Limi makes a wonderful contribution with the excellent score that includes piano, violin and guitar music. Praise also goes to the editing work that includes great use of dissolve techniques.
Although the two protagonists interact with each other verbally, their words are muffled, in a way making this a silent film. The acting expresses the loving mother-and-daughter relationship very well and Park delivers a dramatic performance.
The film references the Girl with Balloon, which is a series of stencil murals that were created by British graffiti artist Banksy. This particular work of his portrays a female child losing a heart-shaped balloon or being about to catch it. Depending on how one sees it, the image symbolises either the loss of innocence or the arrival of hope and a new beginning. Both loss of innocence and essence of hope are present in this short and the film uses Banksy's work to raise awareness of the abandonment of children.
This short film had a great deal of work and creativity put into it and it is beautifully made, with wonderful colours and an exceptional score. It carries a strong message and makes quite an impression.