Since his wife’s death, Paul has fallen into a spiral of depression; neglecting himself, his repair shop, and his daughter Elisa. As he retreats into the fantasy of a digital world, Elisa takes on the role of carer for her struggling father. Paul attempts to bridge the widening distance between himself and Elisa by repairing three toys for her, which she grudgingly accepts. In time they prove a source of comfort and a suggestion of her father's love, something which he is unable to show in the aftermath of loss, and his inability to move forward. At the same time Paul's ant obsession has passed down to Elisa. She looks after their ant farm and absorbs any information she can about them. While watching a documentary she learns of the ant mill: a strange phenomenon where large groups of army ants can get trapped in an endless loop, unable to escape. She feels like she has seen this somewhere before, but cannot think of where. The Burden of Care is a film about the places we get stuck, the ways we can unintentionally hurt ourselves and those around us, and the struggle to get free from our own choices.
The Burden of Care is based on Hosea 1-3, where God commands the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute as a representation of Israel’s infidelity to God. After bearing three children, Gomer runs off with another lover but God tells Hosea to go and buy her back to show his continuing love for his people despite their spiritual unfaithfulness. This film takes a sympathetic view of Gomer who is traditionally seen as a symbol, not a fully realised human. Paul represents the role of Gomer, with his unfaithfulness being the neglect he shows towards his daughter Elisa, who represents Hosea. The story also expands on Hosea’s character, trying to understand the psychological effects that Gomer's repeated infidelity would have on him and how he arrives at accepting her back again. Elisa mimics Hosea’s forgiveness in her attempts to bring Paul back from his depression by caring for him when he needs it most.
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