The Full Story

By Daisy Jacobs | Animation
A loving family breaks apart during the divorce boom of the '70s and '80s.

Toby is selling the flat where he grew up, but as he shows it to a potential real estate agent, he also confronts memories of his past. Some of them are wonderful, involving his father and his beloved uncle.

But others are painful: when Toby was young, his neighbor’s dad leaves the family and he discovers that parents can leave their families. Then, when his own father leaves the family for another woman and his mother is left to fend for herself, his sense of security is fractured.

But as he confronts the pain of his past, he also begins piecing together the full story of his family — and in doing so, learns to let go of it, freeing himself to move forward in life.

Previously Oscar- and BAFTA-nominated for her short The Bigger Picture, writer/animator/director Daisy Jacobs’s latest short animation explores the difficulties of family life, as filtered through one man’s memories. Told through the prism of the actual space of the home, it contrasts the flatness of preconceived ideas about family happiness — as revealed by the real estate agent’s with the complexity of what really happened.

Jacobs’s visual style is a marvel of invention and imagination, marrying animation the echoes European modernist painterly traditions with 3-D papier-mache modeling and live-action actors.

The world of the film is always pleasurable to watch, with a remarkable tactile quality that expresses the ebbs and flows of family life. There are echoes of Wes Anderson’s composed, deadpan style, but though it’s just as artful and engaging, Jacobs is less invested in being clever and more focused on using the visual style to chart Toby’s emotional journey.

It toggles between painted animation, live action and 3-D modeling, each visual mode offering a different relationship to time, memory and emotion. The painted animations seem to belong to the past, with their 70s-esque patterns and muted yet saturated colors. But as Toby’s understanding of his family’s story grows more poignant and emotional, the 3-D and live-action elements take over. When he comes to a fuller, more mature grasp of his family history, he has the full story — and a fuller sense of his own self in the process.

With its dazzling artistry and beautifully executed craftsmanship, “The Full Story” was a hit on the festival circuit, showing at diverse and renowned fests such as BFI London, Clermond-Ferrand and Heartland. But it resonates because it delves into the effects of the sadly common experience of divorce, both on families as a whole and the individuals that it produces. Yet by reckoning with its pain and connecting all the pieces together, the fragments can still be gathered and brought together through understanding and empathy, both for the past and the present — and enabling us to step more freely into the future.

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