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Here's my spoiler-and-squee-filled take on David Tennant in "Single Father," Part 1.

Episode 1

One reason among many that I love this movie is seeing David as an average, ordinary, guy-next-door (I won’t try to use the word “bloke,” because, really. Just don’t, me.) I love the opening of David getting breakfast for the kids
00 00 07 licking thumg.

... and working in his photography studio:    00 01 18 behind camera

I loved the cute scenes that show David and Rita's relationship.  David offers to help Rita study for her test, but she decides that Matt, her best friend's husband who's also a teacher, would be more useful.  Instead, she suggests that Dave put up the tent.  "No... not the tent!" he pleads.  "Don't make me do the tent.  I'll just embarrass myself in front of the kids."  "It won't be the first time," she replies.  Oh, David, why are you being so adorable here? Have you no mercy?

Later, with the kids safely in the tent, Dave and Rita have a moment to themselves.  Rita says, "I'm so lucky to have you."

00 17 16 bed kiss_003 Isn't she ever??

The scene ends with this lovely image (which looks post-coital, but actually isn't. But, still.):

00 17 21 bed kiss_004

After a family scene that feels pretty realistic if cute, Dave goes off to play soccer:

00 13 43 soccer

David Tennant playing soccer!! (note to self: do search for behind-the-scenes vid or interview about Single Father for a mention of Tennant, Single Father, soccer.) (Also: must find “United.”)

Scenes of David just out of the shower, but dressed, after the game. Just included for overall cuteness.

00 14 17 dressing shower open mouth

Now, about Rita’s death scene. The death scene proves that it’s possible to be brutal and graphic, without being in any way graphic.  By that I mean that there's no actual blood or wounds, but it’s still graphic, even lovingly so. In and of itself, I found it grim-porn, meaning that it dwelt on accident in slo-mo with disturbing care. But the drawn-out impact scene is necessary for this moment: Rita mouths “I love you” as she tumbles through the air, and simultaneously, away in his photography studio, Dave looks up and says, “I love you, too” – a psychic-love bond. At first, I didn’t like it, because, really? Psychic-love bond? Then, when I watched it a second time, I thought, “You know, why not? It’s very sweet.” (Full disclosure: I’m a total sap, so I have a high tolerance for stuff like this. YMMV.) Thankfully, it’s a quick moment that comes and goes away… for a while. Eventually, it comes back when Dave discovers the … coincidence?... that he had an urge to say “I love you” at that very moment, for no particular reason.  Dum-dum-dum… psychic-love bond.

After seeing the accident, we immediately flash back to some time before it happened. This is how we are introduced to the characters, including the already-lost Rita, and get to see her as a woman, mother and wife. As we watch them all interacting, we get a feel for the family.

So… we’re back to the beginning, and we know what’s coming, and we’re (presumably) now emotionally invested in the characters. The kids do, actually, come across as believably cute and charming.  Also, I love all their accents. 

As the moment of the accident comes near, I was filled with a sense of dread. I was sure the death scene would be skipped this time, but no; it’s shown in just as much detail as before. I can’t tell how much of my dread was because of losing a character I was beginning to like, or just from not wanting to see the accident again.

The camera takes its time, slowly, lovingly, cutting from Rita on her bike to David. I actually found it harder to watch the scene the second time. The impact – did we see that the first time? This time is worse.

Tennant plays the scene where he learns the news about Rita's accident at the kids' school perfectly, very intense yet subtle, underscored by driving, racing-heartbeat drums. As the score pounds and David begins to hyperventilate, we feel the panic ourselves.

His first thought is to go to his boys, who are nearby. David's scene here where he comforts them is just beautiful.  Also, I love this image of a triangle of boy-hair.

00 21 35 Triangle of boy hair

David then goes to Lucy, who's in orchestra practice. The lighting here is golden and gorgeous. When the camera pulls back, we get a brief flash of cold, institution light, then back to that very warm light, an autumnal/salmon glow on the closeups. This moment, when Lucy sees Dave come into the orchestra room, catches his eye, sees the expression on his face, and crumbles, is perfect.

Tennant is wonderful at playing a father.  Although, the scene where he goes out on his motorcycle that same night, leaving his sleeping children alone in the house (I don’t think his gown daughter is there), to ride his motorcycle too fast and mostly to pick a fight with the cops but also tempt death a bit perhaps -- as a mother, this activity, which seems likely to end up leaving the children alone and abandoned, either for a morning (if he's arrested) or forever (if he crashes), seems like something no parent would do. But how can I say how stupid we can be in grief? It’s certainly a dramatic scene, and Tennant smashes it.

He sits there on his bike, smoldering, in the rain.

00 29 21 Dave and cops_002

His anger and grief is so intense in this scene.  Regarding the plot/writing, I was surprised that the cops just left him, rather than maybe escorting him back home. After the cops leave, David has an amazing scene where you can almost feel how close the character is from simply exploding, because the emotions are too strong to bear. The way he rubs his feet on the gravel, pushing hard, as if trying to erase his wife’s death, as if trying to turn back time, was an inspired piece of business. Even watching this the second or third time still moved me deeply.

Some time passes (under-titles helpfully let us know how much), and suddenly, there’s David walking with the kids and a dog. I guess he honored his “promise" which Rita forced him into.

Dave discovers that Lucy has been skipping school, much to his astonishment.  Rita's sister Anna, who has been helping out, is being pushy and annoying (but actually giving good, if unsolicited, advice).  David just can't deal with her controlling attitude.  He has had enough, and he basically throws her out, as civilly as he can.  

There’s a lovely moment when Robin, Anna’s husband, who’s a lawyer, stops by to discuss the settlement with David. David just looks blankly, then turns away and swallows.  Once again, I'm struck by how much Tennant communicates with his pauses and small moments.

Script nit-pick. Is David’s refusal to even discuss the settlement realistic? It’s written that he’s so upset he can’t even think about it, or that he feels putting a price on Rita’s death is disgusting. I’m not sure if I think this is realistic, or if the writers were trying to establish David as being of such grand moral character, or to set up plot problems that happen down the line. I can’t possibly know how someone would act in this situation, and of course, every person would react differently. But when you’re a parent, wouldn’t you immediately think, well sure, I could use some help with college payments? I would expect him to say something along the lines of, "Fine, whatever, go do what you have to.  Just don't make me think about it."  As the episodes go on, David continues to refuse to discuss this until it’s too late.

Robin discusses Dave's adopting Lucy, so as to have recognizable legal rights.

Gratuitous David screencap:

00 35 55 against orange wall 2

Later, the family gathers to vote on a name for their new dog, and there's a nice scene which shows how casually cruel kids can be. Lucy was already feeling squeezed out, and now she’s further marginalized.

When Lucy cries, “I’m not part of anyone,” I was waiting for David to say, “You’re a part of me, and I’m a part of you,” an easy movie line. Instead, he says nothing, his hurt eyes downcast as you see how crushed he is that Lucy is counting herself separate and without attachments to David. He has, after all, always been there, acting as a father for her entire life. “You’re not my Dad,” she says to him. You yearn for him to say, “Yes, I am,” but instead he just repeats the literal truth: “No. I’m not.”

This is, in fact, one of my favorite things about this mini-series. David listens, really listens to Lucy when she finally shares what’s in her heart. And, instead of saying Those Wonderful Words that Make Everything Right, or defending himself, he just listens. He says nothing, then proceeds to try to make her wish, of being able to meet her biological father, come true. What a great way to parent a teen (or anyone): Really listen. Be respectful. Try to problem-solve. Don’t react emotionally (i.e, with defensiveness or lashing out).

“I want my dad. My dad. I’m going to find him. I don’t know how, but I will.”

Here's Dave listening to Lucy:

00 46 44 Dave listens to Lucy

And, after he holds it all together while he listens, here's his private reaction, after he leaves her room:

2 - 00 09 48 Dave leaves Lucys room

A small bit of humor as the kids show him the videos Anna gave them. Ratatouille, Shrek the 3rd, Nanny McFee, all of which David inexplicable says no to. Then there’s the last choice, My Life as a Dog. (which is a complex psychological study, a grown-up’s movie.) Can we watch it? Yeah, he says.

Lucy runs off, upset, and David takes off after her. She grabs a bus, and David runs after. I guess that running as the Doctor pays off. He phones Rita's best friend Sarah, who comes to the house. Lucy doesn’t see David chasing her bus. Finally, he gives up.  Sarah has the kids phone their friends to see if Lucy is with any of them.

David realizes that he doesn’t even know who Lucy’s friends are.

Lucy, it turns out, went to her grandmother’s place, so she’s fine. Crises averted, but the real crisis of Lucy’s anger is still looming. With everything that’s gone on, it’s all David can do to try to hold himself together long enough to try to escape to the bathroom for some privacy.

Oh, wow. Tennant hits the scene where David breaks down in the bathroom so hard. First, his eyes are rimmed with red, but then he starts crying, and not just a pretty cry. His nose is running and he’s got snot on his chin, and his face is red and his tendons are stretched and his mouth is crumpled up. Sarah comes in to see how he's doing.  When he falls forward into Sarah’s arms, it feels honest and real.

And, what happens next, a comforting peck that turns into ardent kissing, confuses both of them. They break away, and avoid looking at each other. Then the episode ends with Matt (Sarah's boyfriend) showing up, looking for Sarah. Awk…ward! Poor David. This movie could be a fanfic author’s hurt/comfort fic, easily.

More caps and squee in the next post.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 23rd, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
Can I just say how much I'm loving your in-depth reviews of the stuff David has been in, and his roles in particular?

(Also: must find “United.”)

Here you go -- some streaming links for United.

Jan. 23rd, 2013 10:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow, thanks!! You're like my Link-fairy, delivering my wishes! And I'm glad you liked this. I was afraid I was getting too long-winded and random about it.
Jan. 23rd, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
If it's about something I love or am interested in, I don't care or even particularly notice how long-winded it might be. :-)

No problem re the link -- I only recently discovered that site (which is FULL of links to streams of movies and TV shows). Not to mention Dailymotion, which IMO is better than Youtube as a host for such things.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )