Review: "Dad" by Michelle Bailey

Hey Guys,

    At the end of last month, as I do every two months, I attended Five Lamps Films - an evening which celebrates independent filmmaking talent in Derby and beyond. Myself and my fellow filmmakers settled down with a glass of wine (or four) and prepared ourselves for whatever they had to show us. Amongst the line-up, Lucy Young was introduced to me as an emerging talent with her film Unused, and Sascha Zimmerman's Die Box reprised Pro Kopf's performance by blowing all the other films out of the water. But the film I want to talk about today is actually one which I had seen before that night.

Poster for Dad - Baileyface Productions
   Back in December, Neil Oseman and I travelled to Wolverhampton for a networking evening hosted by Underwire Film Festival, where the trailers for Stop/Eject and Ashes were screened. Amongst the other films which were played that night, we instantly took notice of a film called Dad by director Michelle Bailey of Baileyface Productions. It grabbed our attention firstly because it starred George McCluskey in the lead role, an actor we've both worked with before (he auditioned for Jar of Angels and had a main role in Ghost-trainspotting as well). But the film caught our eye beyond the familiar face, and ended up being one of the stand-out films of the night.

   Usually, when I go to Five Lamps Films and spot a film I've seen before on the line-up, I get a little disappointed. But I was intrigued by a second viewing, in case I could spot the wonderful ending twist sooner. A repeat viewing certainly didn't ruin it; as one of the other film's directors commented that night, there's no film out there like Dad.

   The story itself is relatively straight-forward, and although it's shot perfectly adequately, it's not usually the type of thing which I would dedicate a whole blog post to. McCluskey ably plays a main who moves through life as though lost within it - attending a church service, walking through the streets, before finally finding comfort within his home sofa and unending quantities of beer.

   A film about a man who likes his drink is nothing new, but little things pop up throughout the film to suggest that all is not as it seems. The first of these being a shot of a film crew acapturing McCluskey as he enters his house - a shot which, on first viewing, confused me as to whether these were supposed to be paparazzi filming a celebrity, or if it was simply a piece
George McCluskey in Dad - Baileyface Productions
of B-roll footage which made its way in to the film to be slightly avant-garde. Another similar shot appears later on when we see a bespectacled woman watching McCluskey go into his fridge for another beer (a woman I now know to be Michelle Bailey herself, monitoring his performance). We are reminded throughout that we are watching a film (an interlaced, 'tv' effect is added to these shots to reaffirm this. This filter is my only - minor - criticism of the film, because I believe the choice of a visible older camera may have been better); what we do not know until the end, however, is why we are being reminded of this fact.

   It is when the match-cut shots start appearing that the true meaning is drip-fed to us. When McCluskey is sat on the sofa, watching old home movies of a little girl, we cut to another man sat in the same place on his own sofa - a man of similar appearance and mannerisms. The first time we see this man, it's initially confusing, but it's important as well - even more so on a second viewing - and it all makes sense at the film's climax. I would not spoil that ending for anyone for the world, and I encourage you all to watch it if you can. It's one of the bravest things I'v ever seen in cinema.

George McCluskey in Dad - Baileyface Productions

   I applauded Michelle Bailey for her bravery in person at the Underwire Networking Night, and asked her about her influences, immediately jumping to comparisons of This Is England and Tyrannosaur. But Bailey informed me that she had no prior influences, having simply shot the film from her heart. And that's the important factor which makes the film what it is.

   If you want to find out more about Michelle Bailey and Dad, head on over to the Baileyface Productions website. They have the cutest signature logo I've seen for a while!

  I'll be back to talk about my own projects and news next time.

Sophie x


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