Eight-year-old Lila is learning how to ride her bicycle, but it isn’t easy. She needs her beloved Baba to help her, and while he lets go, she still insists he hold onto the bike to help.
Director and animator Tisha Deb Pillai’s short animation is vibrant and joyfully colorful, rendering a charming family story about an experience nearly universal to every child, but also one specific to this particular family.
Little Lila is smart, strong and full of will and fire, but she’s still young and finding her way in world, as well learning to decipher and make meaning from the conflicts between her parents, who are grappling with their own balance between work, family and self.
Eventually both balancing the dynamics in the family and balancing on her bike converge, and Lila finds her way, in a sweet, heartwarming conclusion that is both highly relatable but emotionally specific to the story.
Animated storytelling is distinguished initially by its visuals, and this short’s aesthetic is a delight for the eye. But it’s also an example of richly specific sound design, as well as compact, precise storytelling that stays true to its young protagonist’s arc and point-of-view.
Learning how to ride a bike is a rite of passage, but this short offers both an emotionally and culturally specific take on it, while still tapping into the universal emotions of the experience.
The small trials and triumphs of childhood, so beautifully illustrated in “If You Fall,” are often about the growth and expansion of self into the larger world. But the real trick is keeping tethered to the very foundation of safety and security, making a solid sense of family the bedrock that lets us fly forward with a spirit of optimistic adventure.