Love Is a Hand Grenade

By Jessica Benhamou | Drama
2 friends hook up after a night out, then deal with their relationship.

Alexis and Gabby are best friends and have come back to Gabby's place after a night out of drinking and drugs. The two friends are opposites: Gabby is rational, responsible and in a stable relationship with her fiancé Tom, while Alexis is wild, reckless and free-spirited, exuberantly embracing her bipolar disorder. They are close, but as they share the same bed after their wild night, they venture beyond the confines of friendship into something more.

But in the cold light of the next morning, their fundamental differences reassert themselves. And both women are faced with a turning point in a complex, loving and sometimes difficult relationship.

Written and directed by Jessica Benhamou, this beautifully rendered short drama possesses the emotional richness of a much longer story, tackling themes of identity, unexplored sexuality, mental health, co-dependency and female friendship. But it handles this thematic complexity with exemplary skill and humanity, thanks to its pitch-perfect writing and direction, which builds two compelling, fully fleshed-out characters in a short amount of time.

Both the script and the camerawork are character-centered, giving us intimate access to these two women's personalities at an unguarded, particularly free-wheeling night. The dialogue crackles with the energy of a girls' night out, and the handheld camerawork gives viewers immediacy. But they also highlight the intimacy of an intense and close friendship.

We see shades of put-upon affection and teasing that can veer towards the passive-aggressive as we watch these two very different friends interact, and their backstory as both friends and individuals is woven seamlessly into their conversation. But there's also the current of something else: curiosity, desire, perhaps even some romantic jealousy.

Actors Genesis Lynea and Saffron Hocking as Gabby and Alexis, respectively, capture both the electricity and comfort between these women and give subtlety and precision to both what's said and what's left unspoken at first. But as they act upon their desires and the subtext comes to the fore, it upends the established dynamic between the women as well as Gabby's fundamental sense of self, who must face up to the unexplored terrain of who she is -- and the ways their friendship must change.

"Love Is a Hand Grenade" wears its complexities gracefully, unearthing the underlying ideas and emotions of a fateful night and pulling them into the light. True to its intricate and interlocking themes, it could be read as a story of establishing boundaries in a codependent relationship. Or it could be an exploration of the infinite complexity of sexuality, or a portrait of a particularly complicated friendship. But the film's great achievement is that it is organically all of these at once, magnifying the full humanity of these women, rather than reducing it with labels or easy categories.




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