If Anything Happens I Love You


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

If Anything Happens I Love You
"There's a nice idea here and it's sustained well."

It's difficult to imagine anything more distressing than losing a child. The male and female figures we see in this Oscar-nominated short animation are each wrapped up in their own worlds, sitting at opposite ends of a table. They can barely summon the will to eat, let alone speak. Yet shadow figures emerge from each, reaching out towards one another, arguing, screaming apparent recriminations like spirits trying to express what their bodies will not. Sometimes, between them, we glimpse the shape of a little girl.

Contrary to popular belief, most couples who experience child loss find a way to stay together. Michael Govier and Will McCormack's film depicts not an end point but a stage along the way in these people's lives. In flashback we witness the birth of their child, see her grow up, see them parting with her at the school gates. Those expressive shadows reach out from them, trying to hold onto her, fearful of letting go like every parent watching as a child takes those first steps towards independence. But this is the US, where there's an additional kind of terror. Doors close. A bell rings. Gunshots. A message on a mobile phone: "if anything happens I love you."

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That message came from one of the kids killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, but this film isn't based on a real incident. Its focus isn't on the shooting itself but on the damage done and on the healing process. For some situations there are no words, so whilst shadows act as visual stand-ins, dialogue is replaced by music. There's a suggestion that this is the music the girl liked. It ladles on the sentiment, depleting the real emotional impact of the film, yet one can imagine that it means something more specific for these people, like a T-shirt cradled by the female figure. In amongst her things, there's a sense that her parents are straining to catch her fading scent.

There's a nice idea here and it's sustained well, all the way to a conclusion which will make you wonder how many other couples are going through something similar in the same town, or in the wider world. There is a danger, perhaps, in seeking to wrap things up as neatly as this does, because it lends itself to the idea that we should accept and adapt to fate in situations where change is needed to reduce the risk to others. For this reason, the film will play differently inside and outside its home country. Wherever you are, though, you will recognise and connect with these lightly yet carefully drawn characters; and if you have experienced grief, you will empathise with the depiction of a need for reunification not just with others but with oneself.

Reviewed on: 24 Apr 2021
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If Anything Happens I Love You packshot
In the aftermath of tragedy, two grieving parents journey through an emotional void as they mourn the loss of a child.

Director: Michael Govier, Will McCormack

Writer: Michael Govier, Will McCormack

Year: 2020

Runtime: 13 minutes

Country: US


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If you like this, try:

The Fallout
Parkland Rising