"ZOE'S DAY" is a short film that chronicles what should have been a typical afternoon for seven-year-old Zoe and her devoted father Bill. Together Zoe and her dad romp through beautiful ... See full summary »
"ZOE'S DAY" is a short film that chronicles what should have been a typical afternoon for seven-year-old Zoe and her devoted father Bill. Together Zoe and her dad romp through beautiful Park Slope, Brooklyn, on a whimsical journey of childhood wonder, only to discover that the world is not as simple as it seems. Written by
I first had the pleasure of watching Zoe's Day some time ago thanks to The Internet Movie Database's extensive ready-to-watch short film catalogue. This was, by all means, a random watch. I did not know anything about the film before viewing it. I did not even bother to look around for a plot summary. I just went along for the ride. Zoe's Day may clock in at only ten short minutes, but it packs enough of an emotional punch for the viewing to resonate long afterwards. I suppose that's why I've chosen to review it right now. I was sitting here and the urge randomly struck me.
With that urge came a memory: I reviewed the film shortly after I first watched it (this was almost three years ago) and found a private message from none other than director Rebecca Gwynne in my inbox a few days later. I wish I'd saved myself a copy. In the message, she thanked me for taking the time to review her film and inquired what struck me to watch it in the first place. I told her that, being particularly inquisitive by nature, I pretty much found the film by accident. The catalogue I perused to watch the film in the first place is enormous and just one feature of a site that boasts over 50,000,000 visitors a month. She replied that she was pleased and asked me to recommend it to others if I so wished. I have, but I figure a nice, proper review will reach a far more expansive audience. I grew up in a family where I was the only one with such a wide appreciation for the cinematic art form and I, sadly, did not know too many people who would be interested in viewing a lot of the material I tend to gravitate to, let alone a short film with little to no budget whatsoever and no wide distribution to speak of.
That's what makes short films so interesting: They're compact pieces of art that have a great burden on their shoulders: They have to find a way to stand out among the gigantic crowd of films out there, and they have to be able to command attention and say something significant in the time the average feature length film would still be working on its exposition. Zoe's Day succeeds at maintaining our interest throughout because it takes great care to not just present its story through the eyes of it's title character--a precocious young girl--in a refreshingly honest manner, but also makes a stark statement on the harsh reality that is clinical depression and the devastating effects it can have on the family unit.
We see in the beginning of the film that Zoe and her father and getting ready for an outing at a nearby park. Zoe's mother looks a bit dead behind the eyes (unnervingly so) but that she is clearly in ill health is, we can assume, not given the proper attention that it should by her spouse. Zoe's mother makes breakfast as if on autopilot and stiffens up when her husband tries to embrace her. He gives her a wistful look and slips out of frame and only sees his wife lighten up for the first time after being presented with her daughter's latest drawing. She pins it to the refrigerator proudly, yet cannot seem to properly articulate just how much she appreciates this sweet gesture. To an adult ignorant of her illness, or merely in denial, her actions may seem like an annoyance. To this young child, it's merely a sign of a loving parent at a loss for words. Like many young children, she is very easy to please and she takes her mother's smile with the greatest gratitude.
Then father and daughter return home from their excursion to the park to find that dear mother is dead. The father begins to break down, the daughter seems disappointed that she hasn't been able to show her mother her 'fairy blossoms.' She is taken into her father's embrace and the film ends there. We see the father's grief stricken face, and we can't even begin to comprehend what he must be thinking. But what we do know is that his child, regardless of all the stress he's currently under, must come first. We know that the truth, for his daughter, has not sunk in yet and he must figure out a way to let her know gently. We see this child's confusion and it hurts us, but we can also admire her grace and sheer innocence as she is taken into her father's arms, for the moment protected from the cold, cruel world. It is the one ray of light in a home where the surroundings are little more than sterile. The outside world demonstrates that it is not just a source of wonderment for this wide-eyed and imaginative child, but also a clear refuge from the cracks that finally gave way for this river of sorrow.
The situation depicted in Zoe's Day would be a nightmare for any parent. But as we've all come to accept, life must continue to go on. This may be a harsh truth for a child to understand, but Zoe's learning has to start somewhere, better now than later and better now than never. This film may be emotionally draining, but it does place a focus on the hope that still exists for this father and his child. He still has his daughter and as much pain as he may be in right now, his glass is far from empty.
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