By Brett Cramer | Drama
A young woman moves out of her ex-boyfriend's apartment -- and she takes the dog with her.

Liz and Jake broke up two months ago. But thanks to the high costs of living in their city, she hasn't been able to move out of their shared apartment yet. They've been co-existing uneasily, with Jake sleeping on the sofa.

But when Liz begins her search for a new apartment in earnest, Jake wants to hold off because they haven't discussed the logistics, including who will get their dog, Milo. As they argue over who the dog should stay with, they unearth their deeper truths about their relationship and their breakup that may change their future.

Written by Ryan Sheppard and directed by Brett Cramer, this short romantic drama takes the classic short film format of two people talking in a room and injects it with a unique combination of intelligent, flinty dialogue and moments of raw vulnerability. Combined with a subtle visual style that oscillates between a moody, studied distance with almost forensic intimacy, it subtly expands the pivotal moment that's the key to many two-hander narratives into an opportunity for both inquiry and revelation.

The narrative springboard is a moment of crisis between a couple in the process of splitting up, and while the storytelling limits its scope to one extended conversation, it deftly folds in information about their past while offering a snapshot of their current emotional climate. Liz tried to address their growing apart early on, while her boyfriend refused to deal with their issues. The writing is nimble, smart and highly relatable, but their conflict is not just about the present moment. They have deeper patterns of miscommunication -- and perhaps expectations within the relationship that aren't fully examined.

As the pair hash out their real feelings, Milo the dog becomes the subject of their conflict. As the couple bicker, the camera and editing often cut away to the dog, who seems to be listening and reacting, unnoticed by his human caretakers -- much like a child amid their parents fighting. Milo, then, is a reminder that there's more at stake than just two people's happiness, and that many relationships' splits have unexpected collateral damage.

The bracing, sometimes stinging dialogue is delivered with a rapid-fire, brittle defensiveness by actors Meg Cashel and Tyler Bremer, who both retreat behind their fixed perspectives and a shell of anger. But just before the moment of no return, they finally speak up, landing in a place of vulnerability and honesty that is genuinely moving, thanks to excellent performances.

"Milo" captures the dance between anxiety and avoidance in relationships, and the moment when both partners finally become in sync with one another. It has a tender, moving ending that would read as sweet in most romantic dramas. But it avoids simple sentimentality, mostly because it is honest about the emotional complexity and fragility of such hard-won moments. Honesty and openness are hard work, and sometimes they are arrived at through different routes and a degree of emotional turmoil. Sometimes, those different circuitous routes can cost the relationship. Whether or not we can maintain faith, loyalty and patience with this dance becomes a central question of commitment -- one that Milo seems to have lost his patience with, as he waits for his caretakers to figure it out and attends to his own needs in the meanwhile.

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