Happenstance

By John Marsh | Drama
A woman's suicide attempt is interrupted by a flower delivery man in a bear costume.

Grey has been having a hard time dealing with a recent breakup, which has worsened her mental health problems. Just when she’s reached her breaking point — and about to take action — she gets a knock on the door.

At the door, a flower delivery person named Gus is dressed in a bear costume, standing outside in the hall. He sings a song before delivering a bouquet. He’s at the wrong address, of course. But as it turns out, he’s actually in the right place at just the right moment.

Written by Katie May Johnson and directed by John Marsh, this short drama is a snapshot of two strangers whose lives intersect at a key moment in both lives, offering each other the simple but profound gifts of vulnerability and compassion.

Essentially a slice-of-life two-hander whose narrative scope is confined to a single time and place, the storytelling is captured in simple, clear light and handheld camerawork, dropping us in the middle of Grey’s ordinary, somewhat colorless life. Through thoughtful, economical writing and editing, we see she’s struggling and suffering in her life, dealing with loneliness, doubt and depression. And she’s reached a point where she wants to be done with it all.

But at a key moment, her suicide attempt is interrupted by Gus, delivering a singing telegram and flowers and dressed in an ill-fitting animal suit. It’s an almost absurdist touch that adds an element of whimsicality, but the storytelling doesn’t overplay this element, though Gus himself is a quirky character. He’s also perceptive and gleans from a few quick glances just what Grey was doing before he interrupted.

As Gus, actor Clarke Richards has a gently endearing awkward demeanor, but he also has an openness and ease that allows him to quietly slip into Grey’s home. He has an excellent rapport with actor Katie May Johnson, who plays Grey with pain and agitation that she dampens and tries to hide. But Gus puts together what she’s been trying to do. Instead of panicking, he instead offers her exactly what she needs at the moment.

Compelling, resolutely human and compassionate in spirit, “Happenstance” is a lovely watch, but it resonates due to its nonjudgmental honesty and openness around mental health — a subject that always needs more sensitive and truthful portrayals. But it also illuminates the impact that simple presence and listening can have on someone, even between two strangers. It creates a space where difficult feelings and thoughts can come out into the open — and where we can realize that even when it feels we’ve lost everyone, we are not alone. That connection may not solve the problems or dilemmas we’re facing. But it takes the edge off of the hopelessness and can give just enough light to help us take a small, simple step out of the darkness and into the right direction.




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