Short of the Day
An interpersonal drama of romantic derisiveness.
Whether we like to admit it or not, there’s nothing quite so entertaining as watching someone else’s shitty relationship. Be it a single public spat or the daily manifestation of lingering, patterned problems, anytime we see or overhear a couple bickering we raise our eyebrows or prick up our ears and pay attention. Perhaps it’s the drama of daily life that attracts us, or the rare glimpse into the intimacy of others, the basic human attraction to confrontation in any form, or even just the vicarious relief we get from whatever confrontations we witness being in a relationship that isn’t our own; whatever it is, a little mild-mannered domestic strife has fascinated people, and particularly audiences, for as long as there have been people.
Partners, a short film collaboration between director Joey Alley and writers/actors Jen Tullock and Hannah Pearl Utt, uses this sort of bitter banter between lovers to propel itself, along the way granting uncomfortably-hilarious insights into modern romance. Hardly a bombastic blowout, the argument(s) at the center of Partners are of the calmer, more resigned, everyday variety, the kind not born of instances or incidents but of personalities interwoven so long and so tightly that they’re beginning to strangle each other emotionally.
One room, two women, and the world they’ve made between them are all Partners needs to be a taut, introspective, entertaining, and oddly-charming slice of life. The cinematography by T.J. Williams, Jr. is simple, soft, and elegant, and Ally – in only her second turn as a director, which is hard to believe given the natural grace of her steerage – allows her actors to dominate the frames, as they should and which they do with vibrant aplomb. The chemistry between Tullock and Utt is so believable it’s painful in places, as though this wasn’t a film at all but a window into the next apartment to which our eyes can’t help but dart.
There are a billion short films out there about couples in trouble, and frankly most of them are melodramatic, hyperbolic, and built on heightened emotions rather than actual, relatable emotions. Not Partners. This is a film rich with depth and aching in its reality. It doesn’t rely on explosions of emotion but rather insight into them, as well as insight into how people in love change one another over time. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, and I’m willing to bet you won’t be able to either.