A quietly distraught man sits across from a police investigator, who advises him to “sit tight” and reassuringly says, “We’ll find him.” The man, Mark, is a single father whose 14-year-old son, Dustin, has gone missing — not abducted, it seems, but a runaway.
Why did he take off? It’s not clear from the flashbacks we see of the father’s and son’s life together. It had its tense moments, like when Dustin, out on a building job with Mark, started fingering a saw blade and his father exploded. (“You wanna cut off your damn hand?”) But there were also good times, doing things like building a wooden model boat together. And Dustin, whose tidy room displays medals he’s won, baseball cards he’s collected, and a Green Day poster, seems like a well-adjusted kid. But he’s not a very communicative one. We never get a feeling for what went wrong from his perspective. Was it just teenage angst or a serious issue? Did it involve his dad or not?
Though Joshua Budd is near perfect as the withdrawn Dustin, Thomas Mitchell really carries the film as Mark, putting a world of meaning into a simple turn of his head. Shane Daly also gives a simply-worded but powerful performance as a coworker who tries to help Mark out of his months-long decline.
Chris Barnard, the film’s writer and director, was inspired by a picture of a missing teen, still on display years after he had first seen it. His musings on what the parents must be going through led to this project.
Elizabeth Mudenyo served as producer.
Driftwood was featured in the NSI Online Short Film Festival.