We Forgot to Break Up

By Chandler Levack | Drama
An ex-musician faces his famous bandmates. But the reunion is bittersweet.

Evan has arrived backstage in search of his old band. They’re on the verge of a big show, and he wants to wish them well. Back then, though, Evan was known as Evie, who left the band four years ago on difficult terms. Now he also wants to give them the book he’s written, a memoir about his time with the band, and his transition into becoming a man.

When Evan meets up with all his old bandmates, some seem happy to see him, though some are warmer and more joyous than others. But there’s also some of his other former bandmates, who aren’t so happy to see Evan and resent that he disappeared from the band’s life almost entirely. And Evan soon discovers that wounds from the past aren’t easily forgotten, no matter how much time has passed.

Sensitively observed, raw in feeling and thoughtful in execution, this dramatic short — directed by Chandler Levack, co-written by Levack and Steven McCarthy from the novel “Heidegger Staircase” by Kayt Burgess, and produced by Nicole Hilliard-Ford — captures how emotional aftershocks of a difficult situation can echo years after everything has happened, and still exert an almost primal power even when all parties think they’ve moved forward.

The look and feel of the film take its cues from the whiskey- and smoke-filled world of rock music, with its rich shadows, textured colors and hand-held camerawork, echoing the look of classic rock documentaries like “Don’t Look Back” or “The Last Waltz.” The visuals have a dark, grunge glamour and immediacy, taking us backstage to a world often hidden and cloistered from public view.

The film’s writing is structured essentially as a series of conversations, which run the gamut emotionally from buoyant joy to outright hostility. In many ways, these exchanges reveal a familial dynamic, among a group of people who are deeply familiar with one another, as only people who have shared many hours in the closed-off space of a touring van will know. As these conversations unfold — essentially an airing-out of grievances, regrets and questions — the rich history of this group is revealed, complete with conflict, lost virginities and the lingering seductive power of creative collaboration.

The center of it all is Evan, played by newcomer Jesse Todd with a compelling blend of resigned acceptance, muted regret and strength and dignity. Though the feelings are often raw — and Evan’s perceived abandonment still smarts — these emotions are enfolded within reserves of great humor and affection. The final tenor of the film is a kind of bittersweet melancholy — one that crescendos in the film’s musical ending, which captures the catharsis that only music can provide in many ways.

“We Forgot to Break Up” will appeal to fans of music films like “Almost Famous,” which similarly dissect the complex, intricate and often dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics of a group of people whose foibles and faults are all very apparent to one another. But the short also gracefully integrates a raw, intimate examination of what it feels to be trans into this classic story, both centering the unique complexity while touching upon the universality of regret. Most of us all have things that we wish we did differently — we all have loose ends of the past that we wish we could tie up and let go with some degree of closure. But, as Evan discovers, the past is rarely simple to leave behind and continues to pull at us like a melody that can never be forgotten.

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