Borrowed Time

Borrowed Time

Borrowed Time is an animated short film told partly in flashbacks.

The central character is an aging sheriff from the Old West. Pensively, he shuffles to the edge of a cliff, a spot that it turns out was the scene of a trauma from his childhood. His father, who also had been a sheriff, had just marked his son’s ascension to adulthood by bestowing upon him his watch, a symbolic act that made the boy swell with joy and pride. But then the horse and wagon they were traveling in was set upon by bad guys, setting off a gun battle. The father turned over to his son the responsibility of driving the horses so that he could return fire and they could get away. But the son proved himself not up to the task, and as a result the father was killed.

Though it must have happened 50 or 60 years ago, clearly the sheriff has never gotten over the incident, never stopped replaying it in his mind. Now he has returned to the spot, evidently with the intention of hurling himself over the cliff as the only way to make the memories stop.

Objectively, there’s little if any reason for the sheriff to blame himself for what happened, and to still be so distraught over his father’s death. All you can really ask of someone is that they do their best, and all indications are that that’s exactly what he did back then.

For that matter, he needn’t conclude that he proved his father wrong in believing in him. His father’s turning over the reins to him didn’t necessarily mean that he felt he was fully capable of doing what needed to be done, but only that it gave them the best chance of getting away. Perhaps he thought that if he instead had his son take a gun and return fire, or for that matter do nothing, that their chances of escaping from the situation alive were 10%, whereas by turning the reins over to his son their chances were 20%, and so he picked the lesser of the evils. You couldn’t say in that case that the son proved him wrong, since it was a long shot either way.

But that kind of consideration, however logically relevant, is not necessarily emotionally compelling. So you can certainly empathize with the old sheriff, and understand the pain he has felt all these years.

Borrowed Time is a well done work of animation, with a meaningful story. Actually, what stood out to me the most about it were the shots looking over the cliff. I don’t think I have a fear of heights that rises to the level of a phobia, but certainly I can be unnerved looking down from high up, and feel some degree of panic about falling. I found the shots from the perspective of looking down from this animated cliff quite disturbing. I could feel my heart beat a little faster and my anxiety level rise when a character walked to the edge of it, as it felt like they could so easily plunge over it to their death. I suspect such shots affected me as much or more than if they had not been animated.

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