No. 2: Hush Little Baby

By Camille Hollett-French | Drama
A young mother visits her father in prison and has a profound realization.

Lacey is a young woman and mother visiting her father Richard in a maximum security prison. Lacey is familiar with the routine and has been there before, many times. She puts on a guarded, unruffled demeanor, though certain moments -- a snide remark from a guard, or the knowing glances of the other visitors -- throw her off at times.

But then she settles into her visit with her father, both talking into phone receivers as a pane of glass separates them. Lacey listens to her father as he chats about his new lawyer, his hopes of a reduced sentencing, and his entreaties for Lacey to rustle up the entire family to visit for Easter. As Lacey loses patience with her father's delusions, she demands the truth from him. And what she discovers alters her relationship with him forever.

Written and directed by Camille Hollett-French, who also plays Lacey, this powerful, intimate drama is a perfect example of how intricate, resonant storytelling can be contained in perfectly wrought writing and performance. The interplay between what characters say and what they hide is the perfect scaffolding for a fraught, fractured father-daughter dynamic to play out, complicated by the secrets and horrors they know between them.

Told in an intimate, naturalistic style, the film begins with a few small but telling scenes to set up Lacey and the film's dramatic situation, but then settles into a classic two-hander between the two main characters. The camerawork and pacing seem casual and offhand, but as the dialogue unfurls between father and daughter, each devastating detail reveals a remarkable discipline in the storytelling that keeps the film subtle but raw and the pacing suspenseful.

Richard reveals himself to be a seemingly loving father, but telling remarks reveal his perception of himself as innocent and a victim of circumstance. Each evasion and conversational feint seems to test Lacey's patience as well as draw viewers in, as Richard continues, even in prison, to avoid taking responsibility for what he's done. And what he's done isn't fully revealed until Lacey finally loses patience with Richard, and demands to know how Richard's crime has affected the others in their family, as well as herself.

As Lacey, Hollett-French builds a conflicted character, and her expressiveness and ability to convey deep emotions with few words make it clear that she is both furious with him and yet still a loving daughter with some fragile hope about his character. As Richard, actor Bill MacDonald carries off a difficult role, playing both the weakness and entitlement of the criminal predator but also a man desperate for connection with his daughter. It's a riveting performance, evoking why Lacey still loves him so much -- but also why she must leave him behind.

"Her Story No. 2: Hush Little Baby" is part of a series of shorts by Hollett-French, each dealing with shame, self-expression, identity and sexuality. Though it deals with thorny, difficult and traumatic emotional subjects, the film is unforgettable because it also acknowledges just how a child's love for their parent is palpably enduring, even when the parent is a monster in many ways. It's this love that makes the film so wrenching -- and such parental betrayal so agonizing and painful to watch.

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