By David Lester | Romance
A man has a dysfunctional night with his girlfriend and starts evaluating the relationship.

Jay's long-term girlfriend Alison is what people call a "hot mess." During one particularly drunken night, she proves a handful: public urination and lots of time worshiping the porcelain shrine are involved.

The whole night causes Jay to question just why he's committed to this relationship. He loves Alison deeply, but it's become clear to him that he's giving more than he takes -- and the imbalance is making him question just why he's so committed in the first place.

Director David Lester, along with writer and co-star Jessica Rose, has crafted a short film that initially begins like an entry into the "crazy girlfriend" annals of film. The first half is structured like a continuous nocturnal misadventure, as Jay steadily cares for an increasingly outlandish Alison, and we feel his exasperation and frustration as she careens from one extreme to another. The quiet, contained direction and muted cinematography adds to the sense of being cordoned off in the middle of the night, both alone and lonely even in the presence of someone you love.

The film is no holds barred in portraying Alison's wild antics, and Rose gives a remarkably brave, distinctly raw and unvarnished performance as Alison, touching on both the almost desperate charm on the surface and the gaping, grasping need underneath it. Actor Kristopher Turner plays off her beautifully as the steadfast Jay who is growing burdened by his role in the relationship and the lack of balance in it, and though his arc is subtle, it carries the emotional momentum forward.

The film's quieter second half explored the cost of this imbalance in even the most steady and consistent of partners. Almost like a Möbius strip, it reveals a different side to both Alison and the relationship. The writing confines its narrative scope to the present tense, and doesn't offer a lot of background information on Jay and Alison as a couple. But this beautifully directed, delicately calibrated "morning after" scene enriches understanding and adds complexity, showing that a relationship has its challenges -- but perhaps also unexpected riches, compassion and tenderness in places and moments where it's least expected.

"Alison" illustrates the idea that a relationship is often like a foreign country where only two people have passports to enter and experience its mysterious terrain. It starts off wild and unpredictable as its namesake, but it settles into an unexpectedly rich portrait of those "in between" moments in a relationship that unexpectedly form a pivot point, a next chapter in the journey. We don't know what will happen next for Jay or Alison, but the indeterminacy of the ending feels true to the idea that commitments aren't chosen once and then done -- but must be chosen again and again and again, as life, people and understanding evolve.

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