The Ballad of Donna and Cam - The rapprochement. An Analysis.
It’s hard to pick favorite scenes, but this one is high up there with all the other wonderful moments between Donna and Cam. What I find most interesting is the framing and blocking in this entire episode and specifically in this scene. The distance and rapprochement is manifested within the frame using varying techniques. It’s beautifully done and I want to take a closer look at it.
The first moment we finally see them sharing the same frame, the full shot exposes a visible distance between them. This is the beginning of the rapprochement sequence which is about to follow. It’s like a tentative dance that will eventually bring them closer together, sitting next to each other.
But it is not only the visible distance which underlines their strained and distant relationship. It is the lighting, the movement between the shadows and the light. Donna is the one we can hardly make out. She is merely a presence. While Cam in her bright yellow shirt sitting in the moonlight demands our focus. Despite the darkness and the distance displayed within these first shots and moments, there’s also the romantic and playful lighting of the string of lights in the foreground framing them both. These lights forge a sort of gate or gantry which could be interpreted as a symbolic threshold. It’s that distance within the gate which they have to overcome and it also serves as a distancing device for the viewer since the direct view of them is constricted. The framing, the lighting, everything leaves the viewer equally in the dark and at a distance. This allows for the viewer to play close attention to the dialog and gives the characters an intimate and private space.
The string of lights also function as these little beams of hope and they give the scene a certain gentleness and sweetness. There’s hope for these two. Very tentatively Donna moves to the front of the frame and leans against the gate. Visually she’s Cam’s foil in every sense just like in real life. Even in this scene they complement each other. Step after step, beat by beat they talk and open up to each other. Then Donna makes her way towards Cam. It’s interesting that Cam is the one who’s in the fixed position, not moving and not closing the gap. She remains still, waiting for Donna to relax and to find the courage to close the gap. And finally after the first few steps, we see Donna’s beautiful face in a shoulder close-up.
They are both not hiding in the shadows anymore and as their conversation deepens, their distance slowly fades away. At this moment, the distance is reduced mainly for the viewer who gets to see both characters’ emotional responses during the conversation thanks to the shoulder close-up. But while the viewer is brought closer, there still remains a physical distance between the characters.
Cam opens up about Joe and not wanting kids and Donna tells her it’s ok to not want kids. Without even realizing it, they ease back into a place of comfort and trust, a place they once shared, a place which never really disappeared. It was just put on hold, but their intimacy and their understanding of one another was always there. Following these last beats, the show then cuts to another full shot which leads to Donna taking that final step towards Cam to close the distance.
This screenshot above is one of my favorites since it is full of promise and hope. Cam throughout these last moments right before Donna sits down next to her, exudes such longing for her to sit next to her, it’s written all over her face and her entire body. The way she moves her hand to the free spot next to her. The way she looks down almost nervously to that same spot. She communicates silently and with just minimal gestures and tries to show Donna that it’s ok to come closer. And then it happens. Donna closes the distance and sits down next to her and we see them both in close-ups in one frame.
The beauty of these close-ups lies in the shift of deep focus. When Donna starts with, ‘I miss him’, she’s in focus and Cam remains blurred in the background. As soon as Cam answers, ‘So, do I’, she comes into focus. It’s an effective way to avoid cutting between their responses and keeping them in one frame for the entire dialog. After keeping them apart for the entire episode, this is their moment. Avoiding any cuts allows the scene to breathe. It’s almost like a soft dance between the two.
The dance continues when Donna says, ‘I miss you too’, and while she and everyone waits for Cam to answer, the focus shifts ever so cautiously to Cam and her saying, ‘I’m here.’ At that exact moment we see Donna close her eyes taking in those words she’d been longing to hear for so many years now. It’s a beautiful tender and quiet moment which allows, despite the close-ups, for a lot of privacy since we only see the characters’ outlines in dim lighting. This is their moment and as much as those two cannot look at each other yet and thus a certain distance remains, they acknowledge their grief over the broken friendship, their grief over Gordon and they manage to find each other again in their shared moments of silence.
Eventually, they find true comfort in their deep understanding of one another. They share a laugh. Amidst all the grief and the heaviness, they share an honest and heartfelt laugh which lets them connect and gives them a moment of comfort. They can just be. Even if it’s just for a moment. This, right there, is when the healing begins.