Saturday, July 8, 2017

Gasman

Talk about awkward family get-togethers. In Gasman (1998), Lynne and her brother Stephen walk with their father to a company Christmas party at a pub. Along the way, their father talks with a woman and brings along two other children, about the same age as Lynne and Stephen.

Anyone older than 12 can probably guess long before Lynne and Stephen that those two other kids are also their father's children. Such is the innocence of childhood. Children can be wonderful viewpoints in stories: they see everything but they don't grasp everything or they're not told everything by the adults around them, so their perspectives are skewed.

It's not a surprise when Lynne gets jealous at the other girl sits on her daddy's lap (but she really gets mad when the girl says that's her daddy, too). The adults are the ones with the curious behavior. We don't know if Lynne's mother knows that her husband supports another woman and two other children, and the other woman apparently is OK with being "the other woman" as long as he brings money and takes the kids along occasionally. The father's behavior is both cowardly and expected: say nothing on the arrangement, act like nothing is wrong, and hope the kids get along.

It's a lot of drama and complexity for a 15-minute short, and director Lynne Ramsay films it with unsentimental grittiness. As with her other work, she keeps the camera close and intimate with her characters, except for the long shots of the father and his two sets of children walking along the railroad track.

This is not a warm, happy family. In trying to keep everything, the father has only succeed in driving his children away.

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