Stephen Irwin's 'The Obvious Child' is a twisted, transcendent short film about how to get your dismembered parents to heaven.
When I was a child, comprehending heaven and hell was absolutely impossible. In many ways, it still is. I'm sure religion is comforting, but in my experience it doesn't seem to equip you with effective tools to deal with real loss. That germ of an idea—a child struggling to comprehend what will happen to her parents in the afterlife—is the basis for Stephen Irwin's fucked-up animated fairy tale entitled The Obvious Child (not at all related to the abortion rom-com or the Paul Simon song).
The short opens innocuously enough, with an animated little girl and bowtied bunny set to calm, operatic strands, but Irwin makes it soon clear that his film is not your standard G-rated fare. Suddenly we are shown the girls' parents yanked apart, their limbs strewn about, rotting beside a tree. "Why won't they go to heaven?" the little girl asks God, who in this film is a glowing, floating sphere referred to as "the Big Head." Thus begins her descent into madness as she attempts to get the Big Head to help her, while he diffidently declines.
The look of the film is dark and lush, filled with storybook images that appear distilled in acid. Utilizing a mix of practical, handmade sets, 2D-drawn characters, and 3D-compositing with a wicked sound design, Irwin creates a literally upside-down universe where God's a jerk, but rabbits, both fake and real, fuck everything they touch. One such rabbit, who witnessed the carnage and who narrates the film in a glitchy computer-to-speech voice, spells out the frightening story of moral and philosophical conundrums: When God isn't going to help you, you've got to help yourself—even if that means tying balloons to your parents body parts to float them up to heaven.
The Obvious Child premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and won the Silver Dragon at the 54th Krakow Film Festival (Oscar qualifying). For those interested, Irwin also made a surprisingly uninformative "Making of 'The Obvious Child'" for what I assume were "kicks." You can check out the rest of his work on his website.
Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as a film curator. He's the senior curator for Vimeo's On Demand platform. He has also programmed at Tribeca Film Festival, Rooftop Films, and the Hamptons International Film Festival.