10 year old Toda (Celeste Holsheimer) is lucky to have a dad thats the best pastry chef in her town in an unnamed country. She participates in delivering the pastries while having great fun with her dad in the store. However the threat of war is approaching with the yellow patched Others meaning that her dad may have to go off to fight. As her fellow classmates pack up and leave town Toda pleads with her dad to hide disguise himself as a bush or piece of furniture so he does not have to go. Shortly there after it's too dangerous for her to stay so she has to head to be with her mom in another country and the balance of the film is filled with the colourful people she meets along the way.
The most lasting of the contacts is with a boy about her age that she nicknames Sticky (Matsen Montsma) because he comes on the bus taking her out of country sits beside her and immediately falls asleep using her as his pillow. He is our typical rough housing young boy who talks bold likely to the horrors he's faced as he has been orphaned due to the war. Toda's journey takes her to the home of a debatable war hero and his wife who show definite signs that they want to keep Toda for their own followed by a dubious group of transporters who are looking for more payment even though her transportation across the boarder has already been arranged.
Director Nicole van Kilsdonk adapts her story from the Joke van Leeuwen book. The narrative is a strong easy to follow commentary on the absurdity of war. The weak reasons to go to war and the real life consequences of that thinking. Toda's home land is known as The Ones with there soldiers clad in blue markings with the enemy The Others are marked in yellow. These markings and speaking a different language seems to be the only difference between the two sides.
Celeste Holsheimer is in just about every frame of the film as Toda. She is very resourceful and resilient making her a charter that the audience quickly takes a liking to forming a rooting interest that is critical for the film. He co traveler Sticky is perfect as a representation of all ten year old boys that girls of that age think are dumb, dirty and violent. Look for Jobst Schnibbe and Leny Breederveld as the General and his wife. Toda wonderers into their midst as she preps to head across the boarder. They are inviting and eccentric with an undertone of potential child nappers.
The Day My Father Became a Bush is well suited for its target audience of 9-11year olds. It approaches that theme that's common of a separated home where the mother and father live in different countries. The narratives distaste that boarders on mocking the mechanics of war come clearly through in the piece. The ultimate message is that despite labels and language that people are just abut the same is a good message to pass on to the generation growing up today.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
The Day My Father Became A Bush | Nicole van Kilsdonk | Croatia/ Belgium/ Netherlands | 2016 | 90 minutes.
Tags: Pastry Chef, War, Evacuation, Bus Trip, Bombings, River Crossing, Language, Divorce.