I’m a long-distance dad. So I went to Taylor Swift’s movie alone, for my daughters


This First Person column is written by Jordan Kawchuk, who lives in Duncan, B.C. For more information about First Person stories, see the FAQ.

On a sunny fall day, I arrived at the theatre in my city an hour before the matinee showing of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour movie. I was the only one there. 

The teenager behind the concession asked if I wanted to “go for a walk” to kill the time.

I wasn’t overzealous for going so early — it was opening weekend, after all. In the big cities, gangs of giddy girls dressed in different “Era” outfits lined city blocks to see Swift’s tour in two-dimensional form. But in the Caprice movie theatre in Duncan, B.C., I sat alone. An old dude in a neglected theatre.

Being alone inside The Caprice was unsettling. It’s not retro by design; it’s retro by depression. The rundown lobby smells like popcorn, plumbing and motel mornings. I genuinely wish it had the “aw, shucks” charm of a small-town movie house. But no. It feels more like a building to hole up in, shotgun in hand, ready to fight off zombies.

A man sits by himself in an empty movie theatre.
When Kawchuk showed up at The Caprice in Duncan, B.C., he was initially the only person inside the movie theatre. (Submitted by Jordan Kawchuk)

The theatre did eventually fill up. A lot of girls in costume, escorted by enthusiastic moms or reluctant dads. There were birthday parties jacked up on sugar. Adult BFFs in Taylor tees. A couple of crying babies. By the time the lights dimmed, the theatre was more than half-full, and I felt a little less bananas for being there.

Just before Taylor appeared on screen, the mother beside me asked her son, “Poo-poo or pee-pee? Quick, which one?”

A good question, seeing as The Eras Tour is an almost three-hour epic that encapsulates a singer’s entire catalogue. That’s a lot of Taylor Swift.

Why did I go to The Eras Tour movie by myself? Truthfully, I’m new to Vancouver Island, so I don’t have many friends I can ask out to a Sunday matinee, let alone to a marathon of Taylor Swift breakup songs.

But I’m also a sucker for concert movies. As a TV director, I revel in seeing how these spectacles are executed. And like most of the population, I genuinely like Taylor Swift. Folklore is constantly in my headphones.

But the real motive was to experience the movie at the same time my daughters did in a city around 460 kilometres away. I had promised them, and it felt like a meaningful and creative way to bond with my two girls from afar.

My daughters, now in their teens, have lived in Kelowna, B.C., with their mom for over a decade following the end of my marriage. Lily and Willa are only a half-day drive away, and I visit often. Yet, I hear them more than I see them.

A smiling man holds up a taco as two smiling girls, one on each side of him, rest their heads on his shoulders.
Kawchuk, centre, with his daughters, Lily, left, and Willa, right, during a taco night in 2015. (Submitted by Jordan Kawchuk)

It’s because I’ve religiously phoned them every suppertime since they were in diapers. It’s an evening ritual I keep to this day.

Being a long-distance dad doesn’t have to be a melancholic fate. Of course, I wish I had brought them up in person and the gifts I mail are no substitute. Still, our daddy-daughter relationship is fully realized, effervescent and alive — even if, technically, we are now separated by the Pacific Ocean.

Watching Taylor Swift’s evolution on the big screen was a clear allegory for the evolution of our father-daughter journey. The world watched Taylor grow up at the same time I watched Lily and Willa grow up, and we listened to her music together; each different era of Swift’s was a unique era for the three of us.

The bazillion-dollar concert film started as a sheer spectacle, but soon settled into a kind of hushed personal experience, much like flipping through a photo album.

Watching Swift sing the oldies, I was transported to Kelowna visits for our marathon dance parties and singalongs inside our minivan with the volume cranked to the max. And when Taylor released her new material, I took pride that Lily and Willa texted me their favourite songs during each album’s release. That they love pushing their music on me — like I push my music on them  — is DNA in action.

When I got home, I received a text from the girls’ mom. It was a photo of my youngest, Willa, in a Red era outfit, ready for the same Sunday matinee I went to, around 460 kilometres away. Lily decided she wanted to go a week later with her own decked-out Swiftie sisterhood.

After we’d all seen it, we got on the phone. And the three of us compared notes, ranked the songs and laughed together at the costumes people in the audience had worn at our respective theatres.

It was one marvellous call.


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WATCH | How Swift’s shows benefit city economies: 

Economic boost follows Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour

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