Something I Never Had (2013) – By Cary Conley

After 26 years a father sees his daughter for the first time since abandoning her at the age of thirteen to fend for herself and her alcoholic mother. The two meet in a cafe, the father attempting–and failing–to explain himself adequately while the daughter tells her father about the pain she’s endured even as she succeeded, first in college, then in marriage, and finally in parenthood.

I was first introduced to director Andy Dodd earlier this year when I reviewed his film short entitled "It’s a Love Thing", a beautiful and touching film about childhood romance. It’s a Love Thing was emotionally powerful and not easily forgotten, and now Dodd has followed that piece of work with Something I Never Had, a heart-wrenching 12-minute short that is at first depressing but ultimately uplifting. Dodd once again proves he is a master at manipulating the viewer’s emotions as he at first introduces the two major characters, father and daughter, at their first meeting in over a quarter of a century. The father, played superbly by Wayne Swann, is at once pathetic and sympathetic as he tries to explain his reasons for abandoning his family. He is so ashamed and sorrowful–and happy to finally see his only child once again–that the viewer identifies with him even after learning of his shameful disappearing act. Claire Hickman stars as the daughter, deeply angry for being abandoned and for the loss of her childhood. Hickman is equally good portraying the daughter who feels both haunted by the actions of her father and guilty for the anger she feels towards him and her mother as well.

Many directors will tell you that the toughest scenes to film are long conversations between characters because, essentially, there is no action occurring on screen. But Dodd jumps in with zest, filming 10-plus minutes of nothing but a conversation between two people, and manages to not just keep it interesting but creates a great deal of emotional impact. The musical score should also be credited for helping to create and sustain the emotional impact of the film. It is quietly powerful and contributes greatly to the mood of the film.

In the end, the daughter decides she just can’t take the pain from the reopening of old wounds and abandons her father, leaving him sitting alone in the cafe. But just as in It’s a Love Thing, Dodd isn’t finished manipulating the viewer’s emotions. In a sweet and tender denouement, he is able to bring things full circle and finish the film on a very satisfying high note.

Something I Never Had is a wonderful little film that has just been released online. To view the film, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ctu5PbrspVY.