“Simple and not that sweet” is our assessment of “Doll House.” It follows a man named Rustin, trying to get to know his daughter after he abandoned his family eight years ago. If we were to be honest, there is nothing really wrong with the movie. It has its moments, and the ending is something that genuinely puts a smile on our faces. The actors delivered better than their assignments. It was just that the story lacked depth. It needed something more. Let us go through the events of it so that we can explain our emotions better.
How Does Rustin Get to Know His Daughter?
“Doll House” begins with a young girl, Yumi, making her way to a nursing home to meet her father. When she gets there, she excitedly greets him, but to her disappointment, he doesn’t recognize her. The movie switches to the past, and we see the story behind the two. It all starts with Rustin playing at a club. He is not shown as someone likable, and apparently, he just believes in living in the moment, which includes playing music for a living while doing drugs to his heart’s content. But that night was one of his best friends, Diego’s 40th birthday. When they are celebrating, Diego talks about how he is ready to die now that he feels fulfilled. He says that the only people not ready to die are those who still need to do things in life. This hits home for Rustin and sets him to think about himself. The next day, true to Diego’s wishes, he passes away, possibly from a drug overdose. Things aren’t investigated further as Rustin is the General’s son. When he goes home, his father is angry and questions him whether he plans on continuing to sully his name, but Rustin is dismissive of his concerns. However, the events prompt him to take the next flight to Rotterdam, where he had once lived and worked for a few years. This is also where he got married to Sheena. But the marriage had not lasted as he did not have a direction in life and was not capable of thinking of anyone besides himself. He left when Sheena was still pregnant and never returned. He meets a man named Bok, whose niece is called Yumi. As the introductions happen, Rustin comes to know that Sheena has remarried but has passed away in a car accident. Since then, Yumi has grown up with Rachelle and Bok. He places two and two together and figures out that she is his daughter. Rustin starts planning his next course of action. He is in talks for a gig at the local pub, but he is not sure whether he wants to stay in Rotterdam for long enough.
The next day, he offers to babysit Yumi while Bok goes away on some business. Spending the day with his daughter brings them closer to each other. The next day, when he has to babysit again, he takes her to a local restaurant, where he has to meet the band leader to discuss his employment. He tells him that he is not sure whether he will stay there for long but would be happy to join them if he decides to do so. When he goes back to the restaurant, there is a brief moment of panic when he can’t find Yumi, but she is just playing the piano. It makes him extremely happy to see his daughter share his love for music.
When he takes her back, he tells her that if she reveals anything about their outing, they won’t be able to hang out again. Yumi agrees to keep it a secret, and she also tells him about the upcoming school auditions. Rachelle and Bok have asked her to take voice lessons before, but that means that she would miss them. Rustin promises to help her out. From that day on, whenever he babysits her, he gives her lessons, but Yumi continues to be a bad singer. Both of them get very close and start treating each other as best friends. Bok, Rustin, and Yumi spend the whole day in the park, where Bok mentions that the two of them genuinely look like father and daughter. That night, after Yumi is put to bed, Bok is on a video call with Rachelle, and she ends up seeing Rust. She reveals his true identity to them, and Bok is angry. He forbids him from visiting Yumi again.
However, the next day, Yumi sneaks out to meet him anyway. As they talk, Bok comes knocking on the door. Rustin and Yumi sneak out through the back and escape from him. He calls Bok and informs him that he is just going to fulfill a promise he made to her. The two spend that day in the park after a final attempt at voice lessons. They stayed at a hotel that night. Rustin makes another call to Bok but finds that Rachelle has come over. He tells her that he will drop off Yumi after the audition, but Rachelle tells him that he is just setting up the child for disappointment. Rustin is furious. After he puts Yumi to sleep, he continues drinking while contemplating whether he should just tell her the truth. The next morning, they are late when Yumi wakes him up. Both of them make a run for it and reach the venue just in time. Rachelle and Bok are already there, with the former in a bad mood about the whole thing, while the latter is a little more trusting of his relative.
After the audition, Yumi is upset when she comes to know that she hasn’t made it, but Rustin comforts her, just like a father would. But as luck would have it, after a night of drinking, not getting enough sleep, and running beyond your limits, Rustin ends throwing up. He is dropped off at his place, where a trip of self-loathing and intense regrets makes him go on a drug overdose. The next day, Yumi insists on meeting him so that she can take her promised doll house. Bok and Rachelle decide to take her, indicating that they have started to believe in Rustin and are willing to give him a chance. But when they come to know that he has overdosed, any trust he might have earned is dashed to bits, just like the dollhouse he had been building for Yumi.
A month later, he tries to meet them after recovering. But Rachelle confronts him and demands to know whether he even has a plan. Not having an answer for her, a defeated Rustin goes to the grave of Sheena and apologizes for not knowing better when he had the chance. This scene right here showed the commitment of the actors toward their characters, which is what gives the movie its oomph despite the script’s shortcomings.
‘Doll House’ Ending Explained: Does Rustin Remember Yumi?
The movie brings us back to the present day. Yumi tells us that she came to know the truth about her dad a few years ago. Rustin had gone to rehab after returning to the Philippines but had relapsed after the death of his father. At one of his shows, he had suffered a stroke and had since been in a nursing home. Yumi tries to make him remember their time spent together, but Rustin seems to have no clue. Nevertheless, she spends the day with him and asks if she can continue to visit him. Rustin tells her that he doesn’t get any visitors and would be glad to see her more often. When she drops him off at his room, she finds that it is full of dollhouses that he has made. He talks about how he is making them for his best friend, who sings off-key. Turns out, Rustin remembers Yumi and the relationship he shared with her, but he doesn’t remember anything else, and that memory is what has kept him company all these years. Whatever we say about the movie, the ending is as beautiful and sweet as it could be, and it really warmed our hearts to see the smiles on their faces as the camera closed with a montage of their time together all those years back.
Final Thoughts: What Works For The ‘Doll House’ Film?
“Doll House” is a story about grasping the straws of a life that could have been. The death of a loved one makes Rustin want to check on his daughter as his way of having no regrets, but the moment he does that, he realizes that not having her in his life was the greatest mistake ever. Maybe he was better suited to being an Uncle Clyde than a father figure, but drugs did not allow him even that liberty. The movie itself is crisp and visually beautiful. It was sufficiently engaging and, in its essence, just a sweet story about the price of letting go of family. A worthy weekend watch if you are tired of scrolling through your watchlist and can’t really decide on anything.
“Doll House” is a 2022 Drama film directed by Marla Ancheta.