Brave Father Online – Our Story of Final Fantasy XIV /
劇場版ファイナルファンタジーXIV 光のお父さん (2019)
Director: Teruo Noguchi, Kiyoshi Yamamoto
Writer: Kota Fukihara
Cast: Kentaro Sakaguchi, Kotaro Yoshida
Cinematographer: Hikaru Yasuda
Adapted from the TV series Final Fantasy XIV Dad of Light, which itself is based on a true story of a son who secretly becomes friends with his father in Final Fantasy 14, an MMORPG video game, in order to get to know him better.
I initially had zero interest in watching this. The title and premise sounded cheesy to me. The idea that a significant part of the movie (apparently around 40%) is told with video game scenes sounded like an awful narrative device. However, on the other hand, it’s intriguing that these video game scenes required a separate director to direct real video game players to play the game in a way that would work to tell the story in a film. I’m pretty sure this is innovative (well besides the TV show version that did it already). At least, I certainly cannot think of a movie that has used an actual video game world to tell part of its story.
My concern with the video game scenes is that there is no way it could really convey serious drama properly. For the most part the video game scenes are played for laughs and can be quite funny. When serious moments do occur the video game scenes are interspersed between the live action scenes, where the heavy emotional acting occurs. The live action scenes are essential because without them the video game scenes would fail to convey the necessary emotional weight and context.
While the focus is on father and son, the daughter has her own small plot with her father, which is also relevant. She’s also involved in some humorous instances. Disappointingly, the mother is mostly merely a spectator throughout the story.
In regards to themes, there’s the obvious idea of how some people feel able to talk more freely in a virtual video game world than in the real world. This leads to very emotional scenes where secrets are finally told. However, I was disappointed that we don’t get a family scene or at least father and son scene afterwards where they meet face to face in person after the son reveals his identity in the video game. Not that I expect them to cry again in front of each other but some acknowledgement that they feel a bit more free to communicate with each other in person would have been nice. They can’t exclusively communicate through the game because I figure Square Enix will eventually shut down the FF14 servers in the future. But then again they’ll probably just replace it with another online iteration but that could take a very long time with Square Enix’s ridiculously long development time cycles in recent times.
The use of iconic Final Fantasy music during the ending was masterfully done and as someone who has played some of the games. This really added to the emotions I felt.
This movie completely flipped my expectations. I would recommend this even to people who don’t play video games. Although I have played Final Fantasy games I never played the online ones and really didn’t know anything about them. For sure, those familiar with Final Fantasy will get something extra out of this movie.
Seen in the theater at the Fantasia festival
The director of the video game scenes, Kiyoshi Yamamoto, was also in attendance for a Q&A. It apparently took him about a month to get the game players organized and to film the video game scenes. If I recall correctly this was done before the live action scenes were shot. After those were done he did have to get some extra video game footage filmed. The video game avatars in the game are apparently the real ones used by the people in the real life story.