Written and directed by Alana Hutton-Shaw, it’s Christmas and Anita’s mum just died unexpectedly. With nothing left but her father’s name scribbled on a piece of paper, she and her BFF descend on the East End to find the dad she’s never met. Starring: Daisy Fairclough, Genesis Lynia, Charles Daish, Suzannah Chard, Joan Hodges and Robert Purdy.
A huge strength of Finding Dad is clear right from the start, it has such an unexpectedly quirky and unusual tone while blended with an intensely relatable subject. Stories like this, of searching for the parent you never knew, are a familiar journey but Alana Hutton-Shaw avoids feeling at all cliched or stereotypical. It side steps the typical conventional style, breathing new life into its themes and building a satisfying blend of humour and emotion. It manages to distil the importance of this experience for Anita (Daisy Fairclough), the emotional damage and trauma she’s been through, and how that warps how she feels of her place in the world, while still holding onto a tone of adventure and fun. It captures how difficult experiences, and exploring where we come from, help us better understand ourselves and what we want. Although coming in at thirty minutes, it does run slightly long and could have sped things up for more of a punch but it still works well.
The directorial style from Alana Hutton-Shaw feels modern and brings a casual, friendly atmosphere. It’s not overly structured, there’s a nice use of movement and it all feels very fluid and varied. It plays with colouring outside the lines and throws in a few satisfyingly odd additions, but uses them in a way that brings a bigger personality while never distracting from the heartfelt story at its core. It’s well matched to the charisma of its lead characters, the style feels like a cleverly constructed reflection of their bouncy, charming confidence and enviable friendship. It also manages to bring through other issues, touching upon race, abandonment, alcoholism and the growing theme that friends are the family that we choose.
Daisy Fairclough and Genesis Lynia are an example of a fantastic piece of casting, not only do they immediately have a strong connection, but they’re also a joy to watch. They bring such lively and vibrant personalities, which makes you immediately drawn to them, and leaves you wishing for a follow up series of their daily lives. Then on top of that they bring a sincere and touching emotion, led by Fairclough’s portrayal of optimism, confusion, conflict and struggle with her family life, or lack there of. While Lynia’s Dee fights to show how dedicated she is to their friendship, and her unwavering support of Anita.
Finding Dad is a touching, charming and fun exploration of family and friendship. Led by fantastic performances from Daisy Fairclough and Genesis Lynia, who not only bring everything you could possibly want for this story but leave you wanting more. Both Alana Hutton-Shaw’s writing and direction have a strong personality, it feels modern, fun and relatable but also genuine and thoughtful. It uses a theme which has been well travelled in film and still manages to add a new, original take.