Dances with Films Festival 2022: GOODBYE, PETRUSHKA

Too often, we may find ourselves looking for our purpose in life – the reason we are here. For many, this question will come out of a lack of direction or a sense of “knowing”. For others, this question is born out of the struggles experienced in the pursuit of one’s dreams and ambitions. If I was not meant to achieve that which I love to do, then what? Goodbye, Petrushka, from writer and director Nicola Rose, gives audiences a euphoric and effervescent look into the core of this question – both in the achieved and the achiever. Exploring the ups and downs of ambition, along with excellently crafted supporting characters, Goodbye, Petrushka speaks to both the child at heart and the journey of finding oneself.

Contrasting, yet paralleling introductions

Opening with the sounds of a music box, Goodbye, Petrushka establishes the sense of childhood innocence early on. It speaks to the inner child as the notes are familiar and deeply rooted, further creating a reminiscent atmosphere to the film. As the notes of the music box play on, audiences are introduced to Claire (Lizzie Kehoe) as she looks fondly at a puppet, its rigid structure and design reminiscent of the Tin Man from the Wizard of OZ. She delicately touches the blade of the figurine’s skate, the film transitioning to the real-life elegance of a male skater on ice.

Where the song of the music box matches the innocence of a child, so too does the classical to the elegance and power of the skater. There is a connection between the two felt early on, but as each is introduced individually, Goodbye, Petrushka is committed to continuing their development singularly for the first part of the film. As Thibault (Thomas Vieljeux) ends his practice, and subsequently the music, silence proves to be his undoing. As he slides down to the ice, a voiceover fills the void – “You had your 15 minutes”, “past your prime” and “now no one needs or wants to see you”. From this moment on, Thibault is a torn character, drowning under the weight of these words. Where his talent and love for the sport previously defined him, these words will now seemingly forever guide him.

Dances with Films Festival 2022: GOODBYE, PETRUSHKA
source: Dances with Films Festival

The opening of Goodbye, Petrushka is not settled with the foreboding voice within Thibault’s head, bringing us straight into the safety and comfort of his home. There are no safe havens from the words or presence of his manager as he makes his way into a small apartment. As Thibault is making soup, a representational comfort food, his manager drives hard the idea that “old news goes out with the garbage” and that retirement needs to be accepted – or he would be made to accept it. As these words are drilled into Thibault and the audience, we are briefly brought back to Claire once more, her story waiting in the wings to be told.

As the world closes in on Thibault and his dreams within the sport, Goodbye, Petrushka fully introduces audiences to Claire, whose effervescent nature is immediately captured in the bright colors around her – a trademark element that the director Rose has retained from her previous short films. Blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals radiate the spirit within Claire, giving Goodbye, Petrushka its much-needed warmth. This trend of colors will carry throughout the film – especially as relationships blossom and new adventures are embraced.

Waking up late, Claire races off to her screenplay class with Professor Steve. Professor Steve, brought to life by Dhane Ross, is one of the stand-outs in the film, his eco-centric nature perfectly executed through the skill of the actor. While Professor Steve stands out in every scene he is in, what truly makes an impact is the treatment Claire receives from both him and her fellow classmates. Where Thibault is being told he is no longer good enough, Claire is facing the critique that she never was. And where Thibault yields to the perspectives of others, Claire, encouraged by her best friend Julia (Casey Landman), pushes onward, attempting to make the film she wants, eventually leaving for Paris to chase her dreams.

Dances with Films Festival 2022: GOODBYE, PETRUSHKA
source: Dances with Films Festival

At the beginning of Goodbye, Petrushka, the film creates a sense of strife and turmoil, all wrapped within the representations of childhood innocence. It effectively establishes two parallel yet contrasting elements that will run throughout its central characters as well as its central core. It also develops strong supporting characters in Professor Steve and Julia, which will not only broaden the success of the film but elevate the interactions and narratives of its central characters.

As the narratives of Thibault and Claire intertwine in their united venture to combine puppetry and skating, what unfolds within Goodbye, Petrushka is a push and pull of desire and reality. Both Claire and Thibault each have individual and unified desires they want to come to fruition, but their own perceptions of reality and limitations hinder their success and ability to transcend the challenges around them. Yet, where one finds these challenges proof to assimilate, the other sees it as a new opportunity to break barriers.

A strong team behind the scenes

Goodbye, Petrushka is deeply rooted in the emotions of its two central characters of Claire and Thibault – a weight carried with ease by both Kehoe and Vieljeux. Kehoe brings to life and instills in Claire the necessary effervescent and bubbly persona that radiates in the film. While she has her moments of self doubt and defeat, Kehoe allows Claire to feel every emotion, each time imbuing her with the strength to get up and try again. Vieljeux delivers the pain and defeat with Thibault, his desires to remain in the world of skating marred by the perspectives of others. You can see the push and pull he experiences in his eyes, the light of hope that he can return to his passion challenged by the security and expectation of reality.

Dances with Films Festival 2022: GOODBYE, PETRUSHKA
source: Dances with Films Festival

As mentioned earlier, Professor Steve is a scene-stealer, and actor Ross clearly enjoyed every moment of playing him. Where Professor Steve steals the scenes in America, it is Claire’s best friend Julia that steals them in Paris. Emulating the essence of Jenny Slate’s Mona Lisa from Parks and Recreation, Landman is a standout all her own. Her character may be self-centered and, at times, lacking empathy, she boasts a big heart underneath it all. Landman commits to the role – so much so, that you may find yourself wanting to get to know Julia, even more, when the film concludes.

One of the most unique aspects of Goodbye, Petrushka is the film’s inclusion of animation. The feeling and idea of childhood innocence run through the core of the film, the animation keeping the feeling alive. It is not through the entirety of the film, however, finding its inclusion about halfway through, delivering the greatest strength to the idea that Thibault could return to skating and Claire could create art that audiences would love. The inclusion of the animation captures the idea of imagination, and the freedom it has to bring any dream and ambition to life. It is a form of expression outside ourselves, a world created by ourselves – but one we may not be able to be a part of.

Conclusion

Goodbye, Petruska navigates the turbulent experience of challenging reality with ambition, pushing past the naysayers to deliver something one can be proud of. Yet, while what we have envisioned may not come together as we had planned, Goodbye, Petrushka proves that sometimes, what we do create is something so much better. That our talent may be in seeing more than what we imagine for ourselves.

Have you seen Goodbye, Petrushka? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Goodbye, Petrushka premiered at the Dances with Films Festival on June 12, 2022.


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