If Anything Happens I Love You (2020)
Directors: Michael Govier, Will McCormack
Screenwriters: Michael Govier, Will McCormack
It is often the case that the Oscars’ Animation Short Subject category throws up unique and interesting films, and in 2021 the standout is If Anything Happens I Love You from screenwriter-director duo Michael Govier and Will McCormack.
Distributed by Netflix, this beautifully animated traditional sketch-style 2D film has already become a cultural phenomenon. Despite being only 12 minutes long, it boasts the accolades of reaching 2nd on Netflix’s Most Popular Films list and piercing the zeitgeist by becoming the source of a TikTok craze – one in which sceptical users record themselves reacting to the film, convinced that they won’t cry. For a short film, the exposure has been quite remarkable, and as anyone who has seen the film will attest, the contents of it are too.
A couple sit opposite one another at a dinner table. In black and white sketch form, they silently stir at their food as a delicate and moving score begins to play. From within them emerge dark shadows, two expressions of their inner selves that want to comfort one another, to interact and to touch. Their physical distance is fought against by their inner selves, the dark shadowy versions of one another desperate to capture goodness and to cling onto their relationship. Suddenly there’s colour in the form of a blue mark on the house’s outside wall. Then again as the mother pulls a small t-shirt out of the washing machine and collapses to the floor with it in her hands. Through memories we see a family of happiness – two adults and one child, going on road trips, playing baseball in the back yard. Soon enough, the narrative of a couple who’ve lost their child to a school shooting emerges.
The way in which If Anything Happens I Love You visually captures the emptiness of losing a child, and how it juxtaposes such by so beautifully presenting the joy in watching a child grow, is quite simply remarkable. The absence of colour in the early stages makes for a pointed moment once colour is introduced, but sadness is imbued into every element of the filmmaking, it being an inescapable presence that you feel from the very first frame; one that causes you to burst with grief per every little reveal, per every major story beat. It’s an unforgiving tour of deep empathy, a film that will make you cry whether you’re doing it for TikTok or not.
This is the definition of a haunting picture. Truly, it will stay with you long after it has finished, and is certain to be a film you discuss with loved ones. Equally, it feels at one with its subject, like it is itself a manifestation of grief. Grief that is personal but universally understood, a form of it that is felt by the families of school shooting tragedies deep within themselves and an injustice that is mourned over by a nation, by a society.
If Anything Happens I Love You is the most powerful, thoughtful and emotive 12 minutes of cinema in years. Rarely are we treated to such emphatic representations of contemporary issues in such a remarkably personal and feeling way. This film is power; a sensational, once in a lifetime short film event; the very best of the best in 2021.