After learning he only has months to live, a working-class father reckons with guilt and grief as he searches for a replacement family for his young son.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
When window cleaner John (James Norton) is given just a few months to live, he thinks only of his son, Michael, four years old and incredibly perceptive. With Michael’s mother out of the picture and no relatives to speak of, John sets out across Northern Ireland to find a replacement family for Michael, but soon realises he’s not even sure what ‘family’ means. Thinking it cruel to introduce Michael to the concept of death, John keeps the news from his son, instead prioritising spending time together: playing in the park, combing his hair for nits, reading bedtime stories.
Alongside preschool runs and playdates, John and Michael visit potential families who could take Michael in. Having grown up in the foster care system himself, John is determined to find the perfect match for Michael, but as time ticks on and social services grow impatient, John must make a decision – the greatest decision of his life.
Best known for his moody turns on British television (Happy Valley, Grantchester), James Norton is excellent here as John: a soulful, reticent type dealing with his own heartache. Directed by Italian former film producer Uberto Pasolini, the film’s cinematography is particularly striking in its clever use of windows as a framing device. As John looks through the windows he cleans, into homes and cafés, he sees both reflections and visions: past, present and potential futures he’ll miss out on.
This moving, tender odyssey grapples with what it means to be a good father, even in the most heart-breaking of circumstances. — Amanda Jane Robinson