By Tom Ruddock | Drama
Ex-lovers must confront their painful past to complete a hike together.

Joel and Millie used to be a love-struck couple, but things have changed. Two years ago they climbed Ben A'an, a hill in the highlands of Scotland, where they shared news that would forever bond them as a pair. But now, two years later, they return to the mountain and are in a much different place. Wedding rings are off, talk is strained, and they are both distant and awkward around one another.

As they re-climb Ben A'an, they set off to close the chapter of another milestone in their life, one that took its toll on Joel and Millie. But as they embark on their quest, they confront the distance that has grown between them and exactly what happened to cause it.

Written and directed by Tom Ruddock, this short drama is a compelling, sensitive portrait of a couple's journey through difficult emotional territory, told with great compassion and empathy. The film opens with two people riding in a car in strained silence, driving through the countryside. But then it segues into a short flashback of the pair at an earlier, much happier period in their lives together.

As the film proceeds, it toggles between the past and present, setting up an emotional mystery that draws viewers in: what happened between them to make things go wrong? Captured in beautiful cinematography, the hillside setting, too, weaves a certain spell into the film, embodying both the couple's emotional peak, as well as the almost insurmountable pain that has sprung up between them.

Equal weight is given to both the past and present of the couple's time together, with the excellent writing and editing playing out these scenes with honesty and authenticity. These qualities also characterize the excellent performances by actors Lara Lemon and Will Finlason. We see the moments where Joel and Millie share a significant piece of news, and how happy it makes them. We also see them in their more estranged present, sharing their most difficult moment. Yet somehow, sharing it reminds them of their connection and helps bridge the distance between them.

In the end, "Ben" becomes a powerful story of grief, bereavement and the collateral damage they can wreak on a relationship and family. But it also becomes a beautiful testament of a couple sharing the highs and lows of life, and how the shared history remains a palpable connection. By showing the couple's joy, their tragedy becomes all the more devastating, which makes watching the film a profoundly resonant emotional experience. It also makes the fragile, tender ending all the more moving, for how hard-earned it is and how small moments can have such weight in an ongoing story.

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