A magician, Louis, arrives at a child's birthday party, having been booked for the afternoon entertainment. He's late, and the child's father isn't sure if they should go through with the performance because they can tell the magician's been drinking. But when the mother comes in to talk, the magician realizes it's his long-estranged daughter, Elise.
They haven't seen one another in some time, and their meeting is awkward and painful on both sides. Elise has booked her father to talk with him after fifteen years, and the conversation opens up old wounds and grievances. It's not an ideal situation, but Elise wants to talk.
Written and directed by Andrew Montague, this short family drama is a simple set-up: essentially a two-hander in a confined location, with characters having a conversation with one another. But the conversation is an important, perhaps even life-changing one, as a father and daughter who haven't seen one another in years reconnect.
As with many solid two-handers, the writing and performances are particularly highlighted, and while the short runtime means we only meet these characters for a brief period of time, they are brought to life in the dialogue, costuming and performances with great specificity. From the way actor Gary Samolin takes a final drag of his cigarette in his car and haphazardly gathers his gear, we can tell this is a man with a provisional sense of attachment in his life, with a devil-may-care demeanor.
But that looseness quickly tightens when he realizes it's his daughter who is throwing the party for her son. Actor Mahalia Brown balances both the tension of the situation with a mother's desire to make her magic-loving child happy. The dialogue isn't overly detailed, but it's just enough to hint at the complexity of the estrangement between father and daughter, as does the moodiness in the mostly naturalistic visuals.
But as the conversation unfolds, it also reveals the deep history of admiration, disappointment and, eventually, love. It's the endurance of this love that forms the core of "Magician," and it's most moving when it reveals how we hold space for those we love, even when they're not present and even when it brings us sorrow. Both sides likely have their grievances and wounds, but in acknowledging the feelings that are still there, they are able to give one another a moment of grace -- and that may be enough of a bridge to the next step, and maybe even the next.