On currently at the Tribeca Film Festival, Susan Omand watched the short film, Again (with spoilers)...
Sometimes the simplest things can mean so much.
Take this film, Again. The synopsis is simple – “A man watches Groundhog Day over, and over, and over again as a strange woman brings him his lunch.” The set is simple, being just a TV room and a kitchen. Even the dialogue is simple. And yet it manages to convey everything. About ourselves. About others. About life.
I can’t say anything more about this film without giving spoilers so, if you don’t want to know, stop reading now but take with you the fact that this short film broke my heart.
‘Again’ deals with one of my biggest health worries – stroke. My father died of one, as did my paternal grandmother, so there’s a genetic predisposition that I will have one too. But this film doesn’t deal with death. As I said above, it deals with life. With lives. The lives of both the stroke survivor and his wife, who is now his constant carer, always a thankless task at the best of times but, here, a hundred times worse. Medically he would probably be classed as “one of the lucky ones” to be left with no physical issues, but that physical “normality” makes his short-term memory damage so much harder because she has to cope with this completely alone – because he doesn’t remember who she is to him or why they are together. He doesn’t realise the stress and problems he causes because he can’t remember, but the constant repetition and confusion leads to a frustration in his wife which must always be hidden from him, because it’s not his fault.
And that’s where this film excels. The characters are perfect, in both acting and writing. The childlike awe and wonder in the man (Morrison Keddie) as he discovers everything for the first time, every few minutes, is utterly sublime. He remembers having root beer and blue corn dogs as a child, with memories of swim team and college, but not that he had it for lunch the day before. And his favourite film, Groundhog Day, on repeat on the TV, brings up memories and discussions that she’s heard so many times that she answers with him. We can also see by the facial expressions of the wife, Abby, (Aubrey Dollar) that she steels herself every time she comes into the room before she talks to him so that she’s always up and happy and everything he says is new and interesting to her, even though he said the same thing a minute ago. But sometimes she can’t hide it, sometimes the frustration shows through and her explanation to him of what happened is how we, as viewers, also learn who they are to each other.
There’s a gentleness to Again that is just so poignant. She never gets really angry with him, only with herself and their situation. And just when she is at her bleakest and most alone, there’s a tiny moment of clarity where he understands and acknowledges all she’s doing, the simple things, the food, the fizzy drink, the film, just to make him happy. And that, to her, is enough.
If you get the chance, please watch Again. Yes, we likely will get dealt a nasty hand from life because life’s like that. But we cope with it because we must and sometimes, just sometimes, something will happen to make us realise that we do what we do for the right reasons. And, because of that possibility, we have to carry on.
Image - courtesy Ricardo Diaz