Hair Love

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Hair Love
"Efficient storytelling and a clear grasp of how children look at the world make this simple film a treat."

If you're somebody for whom combing out hair is like fighting a monster, Oscar-nominated short Hair Love will speak to you. Its young heroine has a pretty new dress and pretty shoes. She's been looking forward to a big occasion for days. All she wants is for her hair to look good, but she has no mother there to help her and her father - whose initial gambit is just to put her in a hat - is hopelessly out of his depth.

Efficient storytelling and a clear grasp of how children look at the world make this simple film a treat. The animation is playful and boldly drawn but full of meaning, exploring ideas about race, gender and identity as expressed through hair. The characters are expressive and sympathetic. The only spoken words are heard in a styling vlog, with tone as important as what's said, so this is a film that very young children can watch and relate to.

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Themes around afro hair have only started to be addressed in film with any regularity in the last few years, gradually presenting a challenge to Hollywood notions of what constitutes beauty, but what makes Hair Love special is that it features no white characters at all, so its heroine is free to reckon with beauty on her own terms. It's clear that her ideas have been shaped by her mother and the film's ending finds another way of exploring this, raising further questions about what has gone before. The love within the family is beautifully depicted, as is the adjustment the father has to make to cope with challenges he probably never imagined he'd face.

All in all this is a wee charmer of a film and a reminder that big things can come in small packages.

Reviewed on: 17 Jan 2020
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Hair Love packshot
An African American father tries to do his daughter's hair for the first time.

Director: Matthew A Cherry, Everett Downing Jr

Writer: Matthew A Cherry

Starring: Issa Rae

Year: 2019

Runtime: 7 minutes

Country: US

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