Eight

Eight-year-old Jonathan imagines his father, who died just before he was born. Stephen Daldry's early short film.

Genre: Drama

Length: 12:33

Free To View

Producer/s : John Finn,

Director/s : Stephen Daldry, 

Writer/s : Tim Clague, 

Actor/s : Jack Langan Evans, Gina McKee

 

You'll sometimes walk alone

A boy’s identity matters. He’s Jonathan and he’s eight, and he shouts his name and age as if he’s not sure. His passion is football, because his dad’s passion was football – that’s the only thing about his dad Jonathan is certain of. Before he disappeared he might have been a train driver, a fireman, or, most likely, an astronaut. But Jonathan can’t ask his mum because it makes her cry.

Mum won’t allow footie in the house. Mum wants an end to this football nonsense, she wants him to choose a different hobby.

His dad was a Liverpool fan, but he died before Jonathan was born. He was at a football match, just watching.

The film was made in 1997, eight years after the Hillsborough tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans died in a crush due to negligent police management of the crowd.

In what must be one of the most heartbreakingly poignant scenes ever filmed, Jonathan is on a pier, walking behind a father who holds his son’s hand. The boy runs off to look over the rail, and Jonathan takes the man’s hand. They walk for a few steps before the man realises it isn’t his son. He shakes Jonathan off and scoops up his real son.

The film is a succession of such vignettes, played out to Jonathan’s thoughts. Stephen Daldry, who would go on to make The Hours and Billy Elliott, directed with subtlety and understatement. It will be fascinating to see what he brings to the Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars spinoff he’s down to direct.

The picture quality on You tube isn’t great, which is a shame, but it somehow adds to the hazy confusion of Jonathan’s feelings. It is a masterpiece of subtext, a moving memoir of tragedy, and memorial to all lost dads.