Each day, when Hailey gets off the school bus, she is met by her mother on a bench waiting for her with a balloon. This is writer/director Ruben Scott’s touching fable The Balloon Girl.
If Pixar ever made a live-action film, we have no doubt that it would look something like Ruben Scott’s The Balloon Girl – a simple yet emotional fable about child abandonment, that, like all of Pixar’s best work, has a deep emotional core based on real-life events. Filmed on just one set in a studio, The Balloon Girl is just 3 minutes long, but during that time it manages to pack an emotional punch that, as human beings, pulls right on our heartstrings.
Opening with a beautiful score by Martin De Limi, we see Hailey’s Mum sitting on a bench with a balloon in hand, waiting for Hailey’s school bus to arrive. On seeing her daughter, she greets her with love, swaps her packed lunch for the balloon, and they walk home together. This happens every day until one day Hailey reaches the bench only to discover the balloon has been tied up and her mum is nowhere in sight.
Every Pixar film has a meaningful message within its story that usually conveys universal moral principles that appeal to an audience’s deepest emotions. Scott’s film is no different, with his brief storytelling us some core truths about what it means to be loved, all the while managing to convey these emotions and explore feelings that encourage viewers to not only reflect on their own lives but also think about the plight of others. As the writer, Scott’s screenplay has some incredible storytelling depth to it, and this is even more impressive when you realise there is no dialogue anywhere. It is basically a silent film with lighting and sound effects, and that is what makes this short film so engaging, fit for all ages, and (pretty much) timeless. Much Like Pixar’s animations, The Balloon Girl is lovingly crafted and surrounded by lush colours with three-dimensional characters that you end up really caring about. It also enables us to tackle complex issues and adult concepts such as loss, sadness, and compassion.
Scott uses an establishing shot for the majority of his film, and that takes the form of a park bench smack bang in the middle of the frame. The bench is surrounded by falling leaves which are all coloured bright reds, browns, and oranges. The editing is used sporadically but is very effective and tight when it comes in. Cutting to small important moments, like the Mum fixing her daughter’s hat, or a close-up of Hailey’s face that allows us to see all the loss and fear she is experiencing. There is also a poignant nod to Schindler’s List as all the colour in the picture fades to black and white, everything that is except for Hailey sitting on the bench in her red coat.
When you get right down to the core of Scott’s film, although the theme of abandonment is a hugely important issue that requires greater discussion, he doesn’t hammer home his points with grandiose ideas. Instead, he focuses on the small things that we all go through at certain times in our lives and this has a much stronger effect on our emotions. The Balloon Girl is a beautiful little film and what it manages to confirm is that even the smallest of things can have the largest of impacts.