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Leap Before You Look

by on July 12, 2011
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This brave and illuminating doc by Stephane Goldsand is an autobiographical account of his own struggle to embrace fatherhood. Using video footage in which he is both the interviewer and interviewee, mixed with some haunting yet simple animation, “Leap Before You Look” is a portrait of a young man and his own doubts.

Stephane’s wife, Christina, is as certain about her desire — indeed, her biological imperative — to have children as he is wavering. A schoolteacher, she talks joyously about wanting to watch someone who looks like her husband grow, play and ask questions that only the mother can answer.

Stephane, though, worries that he might not be an adequate parent. Indeed, he worries that he doesn’t seem to feel the need to have a child that all of his friends seem to have. As he interviews other fathers, the question of whether or not to have children is alien to them, like asking to decide whether to breathe.

That’s the most powerful part of Goldsand’s film, the quest to understand why something everyone else seems to regard as self-evident is such a struggle for him.

In his 22-minute exploration, which feels neither hurried or lingering overlong, Goldsand is not afraid to reveal his most intimate personal moments, including sessions with his therapist. In a pair of phone calls with his own parents, we quickly begin to understand his hesitation.

His mother tells him she finds his doubts and questions “absurd”: “If you want to have babies, then go have babies.” This despite the fact that he nearly died of complications during his own birth. The conversation with his father — who left the family when Stephane was very young, and with whom he has not even spoken for several years — is even more emotionally detached and uncomfortable. We get the sense he could have stopped any passing stranger on the streets and achieved a more intimate exchange of thoughts and feelings.

I won’t tell you what decision the filmmaker reaches by the end or even if he does. The charm of “Leap Before You Look” is that it doesn’t settle for any easy answers.

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