Duck Daze


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Duck Daze
"This is a community that, one suspects, director Alison Piper understands well."

From the discords of the opening music to the empty convenience store shelves, the bleak countryside and the washed out colour palette, Duck Daze sets a tone of darkness and melancholy from the start.

This short film tells the story of the less than happy return by outcast Johanina (Daniela Nardini) to her homeland on the Isle of Lewis, on the occasion of her father's funeral. Forced back into the presence of a mother (Dolina MacLennan) from whom she has been estranged by distance and past events, she must rekindle a tense relationship, made more difficult by the fact that neither she nor her mum is prepared to give way and speak the other’s language: Johanina speaks English and emoji; her mum is an uncompromising Scottish Gaelic-speaker.

Darkness for which, we quickly discover, there is good reason.

For the visit reminds Johanina of long-buried trauma, which she manages and confronts by giving to it the form of a petulant, contrary duck.

To the tightly-knit – and staunchly Presbyterian - local community, dour and disapproving in their dark funeral attire, none of this matters. The important thing is appearances, respectability and, an ask that they are not entitled to ask: forgiveness. In their eyes, Johanina, the victim, is the bad girl here, not just for the original sin against her, but even for daring to imagine she is entitled to any sort of justice, and this they make clear through sotto voce comment and uneasy glances.

Which makes them all the more guilty: complicit not just in the dim and distant past, but the present too.

This is a community that, one suspects, director Alison Piper understands well, and for the good upstanding folk of the island this must make for unhappy viewing.

That said, it is too easy to locate the themes here in the fringes, both cultural and geographical. Yes - those of us with our finer city sensibilities might be tempted to view the hypocrisy here as a function of a religiosity that we have for the most part deemed no longer relevant to modern living.

But to do so would be to miss a point. For the message here is universal: we too are hypocrites. It is just that we dress better and smile more while we perpetrate our hypocrisies around the abuse of women.

A good short which, if it is not flagged as such at showings, should be warning audiences of triggers for sexual violence and abuse.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2020
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Duck Daze packshot
Johnina gets revenge on her childhood abuser and the community that enabled him, with the help of a duck.

Director: Alison Piper

Writer: Julia Taudevin

Starring: Daniela Nardini, Dolina MacLennan, Tam Dean Burn, Anna Hepburn, Lauren Malcolm

Year: 2019

Runtime: 14 minutes

Country: UK

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