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The Comfort In Knowing That If Anything Happens, You Are Loved

(CW/TW: gun violence, school shootings)

Netflix released “If Anything Happens I Love You” to critical acclaim on Nov. 20. The film is written and directed by Michael Govier and Will McCormack. A poignant 12-minute film, “If Anything Happens I Love You” explores the impact of school shootings on an affected family. 

The movie begins in a simple and peaceful neighborhood where an estranged couple resides. Followed by their shadows, they go about their routine until the mother sees a small blue shirt in the laundry and begins to reminisce about their daughter, inferred to already be dead. To the tune of King Princess’ “1950,” the film visits multiple memories throughout the daughter’s life — a road trip, her 10th birthday, her first kiss — and ends the montage on a day to school. 

As the daughter approaches the school, her parents’ shadows wrap around her, terrified and desperate to keep her from attending; however, the daughter still enters, unaware of the school shooting that was to happen that day. The shooting is audibly and visually marked: the screen goes black, and blue and red pigments appear as shouts, sirens, and shots are heard. Amidst the cacophony, the last segment of the scene features the daughter’s text to her parents and the film’s title: “If anything happens I love you.” The parents soon learn to cope with the loss of their daughter, ending the film on a happy tone.

Carefully and sympathetically crafted, “If Anything Happens I Love You” is remarkably audibly and visually sparse: music plays in the background, and no dialogue is ever heard. Negative space often surrounds the characters, and colors are hardly used. According to the film’s artistic director Youngran Nho, this choice in colors matches the “emptiness that fills [the] grieving parents.” This sparse quality draws the audience’s attention to each colored detail, which is mostly associated with the daughter, the film’s emotional center.

The film’s animation is also wonderfully sketchy with a watercolor quality, allowing for an artisan, heartfelt feeling that Nho describes as “vulnerable and raw.” Through its sparseness, the film has audiences focus on the daughter’s importance to her parents, as well as ponder the parents’ future without their child. This raw quality also invites viewers to empathize with the parents, almost as if they too knew the daughter.

As a film about gun violence and its effects on an affected family, Govier and McCormack’s work is remarkably and realistically heart-rending. To make the film as realistic as possible, the directors worked with the nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety and met with families whose children died of gun violence — and this realism reminds us of how unfortunately commonplace gun violence is. Whether in school settings or racial contexts, such brutality is frequent and affects many. The parents in the film could be anybody in our own neighborhoods. The short creates a window for dialogue about gun violence, a topic that still needs to be greatly addressed in our society. 

With its emotional power, the film also takes away some of the quarantine numbness. Now months and months into quarantine, time zips by, motivation decreases and feelings of purposelessness only worsen. With nothing able to currently free us from quarantine, we have no choice but to grow numb to these painful feelings; sometimes, escapism cannot even help since our usual entertainment feeds no longer do the trick. The freedom of eternally scrolling through YouTube recommendations once felt like a well-needed break and now feels like a meaningless last resort for any possible entertainment. “If Anything Happens I Love You” is a great film to break this void and feel something once more — even if it’s sadness. 

The movie does not linger on its sorrow. As the camera looks over the parents, who mourn their daughter together, they are no longer isolated from each other: their daughter’s memory reconnects them, and the film ends on a positive, comforting note. Despite being about gun violence, this comfort also resonates with our quarantine situation as we seek comfort from others. “If Anything Happens I Love You” almost feels like the daughter’s text: a constant, ringing reminder that we can find comfort in others, whether they be in words or a movie. The film does not envelop its viewers in sorrow, but rather it consoles us, showing us that we can find friends in these difficult times. 

 “If Anything Happens I Love You” is a masterpiece that focuses on emotions and its message about the destructive effects of gun violence. This film fulfills its viewers by delivering both great artistry and emotional meaning. It is a well-crafted package of emotions delivered in beautiful watercolor and is a definite Netflix must-see.

Beatrice Malvar is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2020 quarter. She can be reached at bmalvar@uci.edu.