Faithful (2017)

Faithful

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Lauren’s marriage to her husband Ron has hit a rough patch. Ron’s not happy about the long hours needed in order for Lauren to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor. Desperate to try to reconnect to her spouse, Lauren quits school to focus on her marriage. But Ron seems to have already checked out of the relationship, as Lauren catches him talking with another woman. Devastated by the loss, Lauren tries everything, from therapy to downright pleading, to try to get her husband back, but even an intervention by family and friends may not be enough to get her to accept the truth.

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Faithful is a 14-minute long short from 2017, directed by Niklas Berggren. Between 2017 and 2018 the film won a total of 13 awards on the film festival circuit in Los Angeles, including everything from best director, to best actor, to best short. The film also doesn’t waste any time informing you of this, because before the credits even begin to roll, all the awards the film won are thrust up upon the screen front and center, I guess so there won’t be any doubt in the viewer’s mind of the caliber of movie they’re about to watch. That might seem a little forceful to some, but I must admit that if a film I worked on won 13 awards, I’d probably want to be really insistent about you knowing about them too. Luckily the film is actually pretty good, so a couple seconds of preening can be overlooked.

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The story itself is a short, but intimate glimpse into a clearly broken relationship. Lauren is a woman who is desperately in love and trying to cling to the remnants of an ideal relationship that has long since ended, and is so far down the rabbit hole of her own feelings that she refuses to accept reality. What makes the film a little frustrating, is that she seems to be making sacrifice after sacrifice for the sake of love, with nothing seeming to come from it. Her husband Ron shows little emotion other than irritation or disinterest, and after only a couple of interactions between them one wonders what it is Lauren once saw in him to begin with that she is now so desperately fighting for. It’s like she’s so lost in the fog of what she wants the relationship to be that she can see nothing else but her end goal, and in fact, her love seems so all encompassing that it literally dwarfs all other aspects of her life. Everything beyond keeping Ron is merely an afterthought. Friends, family, job prospects, dreams, all remain a distant second on her priority list as she continues to cling to a man who does nothing but push her away. It’s a sad, frustrating and heartbreaking commentary on obsessive and broken love.

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Considering all the awards the film won, the acting ended up being a bit hit-or-miss. Clarissa Hoffman, who plays Lauren, is not only the heart of the film, but the strongest character, and puts in a highly intense performance. She essentially carries all the emotional weight and tension of the film on her shoulders, and she does it so deftly that it often feels that everyone else in the film is merely an afterthought. But while her compelling performance was already sure to stand out on it’s own, it’s highlighted all the more by some rather middling secondary characters whose reactions often feel awkward, forced, or just plain unnatural. I guess that’s why the movie didn’t win any awards for supporting characters. Thankfully though, this is Lauren’s story, so we don’t have to spend much time with the people that don’t matter.

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The only thing I would have liked to see done differently, would be having the film give the audience some kind of glimpse into Lauren and Ron’s past relationship. It would have been nice, even just briefly, to know just what it was that Lauren was so desperately fighting to keep. Was it always this way? Were there ever any good times? We just don’t know, and we’re only ever given Lauren’s one-sided account of events, so instead of giving the audience a hint of what she’s trying to cling to, she just seems to be fighting a hopeless and never ending battle of rejection. Perhaps it’s a comment on the saying “Love is blind.” Denial, after all, can be a hell of a drug.

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I’ve got a couple of small issues with Faithful, the rather mediocre secondary characters and some desired plot elements being among them. But other than those two nitpicks, I can easily see why it won as many awards as it did. The story and direction are solid, the lead actress is great, and the cinematography is beautifully done. It has a lot to say in a scant 14-minutes about love, obsession, and desire, and it does a great job of telling the story. If you like dramas or thrillers and you’ve got a few minutes to spare, then give this film a shot.

Faithful is available for streaming on Amazon.

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Michi

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