For the new year, a short about new beginnings—sort of.

Watch enough independent animation and you’ll see a whole genre of films about the crushing burden of modern life. The problem with most of these films is that they call for uplifting art as an antidote, instead of trying to actually be uplifting.

Lori Damiano’s film compresses a lot of wisdom into 15 minutes, on the difference between observation and experience, the burdens created by the past and the future, the need for appreciation of simple moments. But it does it in a thoughtful way, not a scolding one, which makes a huge difference. Damiano’s drawings are always good natured—there’s at least a little of Fred Wolf’s Tootsie Pop commercials in her aesthetic—so even when they’re critical, they still come across as upbeat. But that kid-friendly look is perfect for the sense of wonder that Lord I needs; it’s what makes the ending sequence, with its discovery of calm and dissolution of self, actually land.

There are plenty of films that tell you you need to step back and take a breath. The Records Keeper is one of very few that makes you feel like you already have.

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