One Small Step
(Andrew Chesworth & Bobby Pontillas, United States & China mainland, 2018)
One Small Step is a short film about a girl called Luna who’s dream is to become an astronaut, she lives with her supportive and loving father who has to witness his daughter feel the increasing pressures of growing up and the difficulties of following your dreams. It is an ultimately optimistic story of resilience in the face of life’s many challenges.
This is a family film that has a very approachable and wholesome style, this doesn’t make it something only children will enjoy as it has a strong grasp on the realities of parenthood that an older audience may find relatable too.
The narrative itself is in a linear chronological order as the spectator follows Luna through her childhood through to being a young adult. This allows for a more natural or realistic progression of time as Luna faces narrative obstacles to overcome, it’s as if a life has been condensed down to its main events, some sad and some happy.
The main use of sound is the music which beautifully accompanies the visuals by enhancing the optimistic moments with an uplifting score. Perhaps even more effective is when there is no music, when a tragedy occurs the silence is more impactful than sad music because it powerfully conveys the sense of loss and emptiness that is present.
Camera techniques are effectively used to tell the story, for example, there are many recurring shots with the same framing but with changes within the frame (see fig.1), having the same shot multiple times throughout the story allows for little changes to be noticed more easily by the spectator as Luna grows up or starts a new chapter in life.
There is a quick and snappy animation style, the movements of objects and characters flow in a graceful manner, especially the joyous Luna. This suits the story well because it creates the sense that Luna’s life is going very fast as she is on a mission to become an astronaut, however this causes her to lose site of the importance of family because she becomes too busy to spend quality time with her father (see fig.2).
The editing has a similar effect to the animation technique discussed in the previous paragraph, it quickens the pace of the narrative by using many cuts. Match cuts are again used to show subtle changes to Luna’s environment that in turn symbolise her growth.
A home setting makes for a more personal atmosphere, the story extends to other settings but the home and especially the kitchen always seem to be the consistent checkpoint within the narrative. The kitchen has a very homely feel as its decor is simple and not too flashy, suggesting they are a a lower middle class or working class family. The use of light is perhaps most notable as there is a beautifully soft warm glow within the kitchen that feels very comforting, this juxtaposes how when Luna gets older and more stressed the kitchen is often much darker (see fig.3) Another key element of the mise-en-scene is the astronaut boots that Luna wears after receiving them as a gift from her dad, they tell the spectator visually that she wants to be an astronaut.
As briefly discussed earlier, this fits the category of a family film because of the innocent story with a family setting that is suitable for children to observe. The design of Luna makes her child friendly because she has big expressive eyes (see fig.4) which is important for children to be able to read her emotions. The story only has elements of fantasy due to the imaginary space travel and everything else is very much grounded in reality (reality being school, careers, family, loss, success, failures etc.), therefore it might not just be a ‘kids film’ and may be for people of all ages to enjoy and learn life lessons from.
I found this film very sweet and moving, the relationship between the father and daughter was realistic and as a spectator I was able to relate to them in many ways. However, this film greatly simplifies and reduces the many chapters of life which I found less realistic, but I do see how that effectively portrays the feeling that life moves fast.
I really enjoyed the elegant style of this film (see fig.5) so I’m inspired to see more from these film makers and also to explore more animated short films. I would highly recommended this film to anyone, young or old, because I think it teaches an important lesson about resilience in the face of loss, keeping in touch with the things that matter to you the most and following your dreams.