A 25 year-old filmmaker who grew up in Maryland, studied at NYU and now works out of New York City, Patrick Daughters is the director of two awardwinning shorts, the five minute long “In Life We Soar” and “Any Creature,” which clocks in at just twice that running time. I have been reviewing movies professionally for nearly twenty years and I can honestly say that watching Daughters’ films has made for fifteen of the most exhilarating moviegoing minutes in my career.
His work is as understated as his description of it. Daughters calls “Any Creature” a “tone poem about a neglected girl and a mysterious roadside accident.” Which is sort of like describing “Jaws” as the story of a fishing trip.
A pastiche of haunting, highly evocative sequences, the short opens with a young girl at play in a vast wheatfield. The silence of the scene is barely broken as, far in the distance, a motorcycle and automobile collide with fatal force. As seen by the girl, the spectacular crash is little more than a momentary glint of metal on the horizon.
Rushing across the expanse she comes upon a nightmare of hissing steel, shattered glass and broken bodies. She cautiously approaches the only victim still breathing and the man catches sight of her out of the corner of his eye. “Hold my head, will ya?” are the only words spoken before he dies. They are, in fact, the only dialogue in the entire work outside of a single enigmatic statement made a few moments later.
At some point in the future, the same young girl rocks in a chair in a trailer as her mute and housecoated mother stares blankly at the Home Shopping Network. She thinks back to a time following the accident when she cleansed blood from her hands in a nearby lake. And then she thinks back to a series of moments shared with her father-his hand taking hers to teach the proper way to skip a stone across water, a piggyback ride through neighboring hills and his cryptic admission made one evening as the two watched the sun set, “I should’ve been born in another time. Another place.”
This is when we realize the man whose blood she washed away in the lake was her father and the many eerie poetic pieces of the picture’s puzzle zap into place. The film closes as the girl gives the slightest of dreamy smiles, the camera surveys the bloodied bodies at rest where they were tossed into the field and Peggy Lee croons the Rodgers and Hart tune “Where or When.”
It’s a denouement worthy of David Lynch. Lyrical, confounding, minimal and ultimately unsettling to the max, “Any Creature” is a work of significant emotional potency and cinematic promise. Daughters’ other short may be half as long but something tells me it packs no less a visionary punch.