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Categories: Movie Reviews

Patrick Vollrath’s award-winning short “Alles wird gut” (“Everything Will Be Okay”) pulls at the heartstrings with the emotional story of a divorced father trying to keep custody of his daughter.

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A major selling point for short films is that they force their makers to stick to the basics, to find the essence of the narrative and the root of its meaning. The German short Alles wird gut (Everything Will Be Okay), which won director Patrick Vollrath a student Academy Award this year, perfects this idea. A simple yet powerful story of love, life, and loss, Everything Will Be Okay is 30 minutes of cinema you won’t want to let go of.

The subjects are Michael (Simon Schwarz), a divorced father, and his young daughter, Lea (Julia Pointner), who is staying with her father for what initially seems like an average father-daughter weekend of sweet eating, bumper car riding and toy buying. “Mom would never buy me something like this,” Lea says, her father allowing her to purchase a prodigious Playmobil pirate ship, and an island to match.

But before too long it becomes clear that this weekend is a little more than a spend-and-spoil, as a series of diversions start to happen that darken the mood. When Michael takes Lea to a photo booth, she wants to take the usual funny-face pics, but he directs her to make a deadly serious face, ultimately buying passport photos. Then, he takes her to a meeting at some sort of immigration office, and after that, to a car dealership.

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Events like these, peppered between the activities of their weekend out, continue to build tension between the two, Lea asking questions with an increasingly concerned look on her face, and Michael impatiently snapping at her to stop worrying. “Everything will be okay,” he says. But we all know it won’t. What follows is a stampede of suspense that builds to a climax that few feature films could manage to pull off, never mind a 30-minute short.

Everything Will Be Okay grabs onto the most basic of human emotions in its simple-yet-effective narrative about the things we will do to hold onto our family, and how the modern system of divorce proceedings has changed this dynamic. Schwarz and Pointner are spectacular in their roles, effortlessly natural and managing a wide range of emotions within a restricted timeframe. We believe every moment of their journey – the joy, the fear, the pain – partly because the actors nail their performances, and partly because the dialogue is so deceptively straightforward. Not a line feels forced or contrived; it’s all what we would say if we were in the situation.

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It’s also an aesthetically pleasing short, with noticeable progression in the way shots are taken and edited together. When we first meet Michael and Lea, the shots are concise and action-oriented, using a technique I call the “middleman” – i.e. cutting out the nonessential movements between consecutive actions to imply a routine and speed up the exposition. Then, as the film goes on, the shots get longer and more fluid, leading to a punishing extended take during the film’s climax that leaves us on the verge of tears.

My only real criticism of the film is that a few moments are edited together a bit too jarringly; in places, a noticeable cut will be made between what seems like two takes of the same shot. This is a minor, uncommon issue in what really is a stunningly heartbreaking half an hour. Patrick Vollrath has crafted an impressive short that really finds the heart of the now-ubiquitous divorce/custody narrative in ways we haven’t seen before. And he does it in only 30 minutes.

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

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Posted on Nov 2, 2015

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