The Stars and Thunder

By Jesse Einstein | Drama
A cancer-stricken woman gives up everything to relive her dream of singing.

Sam is in a tailspin, after receiving a shocking diagnosis that changes her whole approach to life and relationships. Suddenly what matters just doesn't matter anymore, now that she's facing the ticking clock of mortality.

Reeling from the shock, Sam seeks out her former bandmate Charles from her group, The Stars and Thunder. With him, she finally shares what is happening in her life -- and realizes what she wants to do in the time left to her.

Directed by Jesse Einstein from a script co-written with Jenna Laurenzo (who stars as Sam), this short drama captures those archetypal moments "when everything changes" -- moments of revelation, when the life that's been humming along suddenly shifts, revealing what truly matters to us. For many people, it takes something shocking to shake us out of complacency, and for main character Sam, it's a diagnosis of a possibly fatal illness.

Sam is in a personal maelstrom, and the film's storytelling reflects the tumult, toggling between past and present. Its editing has a musical, almost jazz-like rhythm, a stream of images along as Sam navigates her "new normal," the omnipresent ticking of a clock weaving in and out of the sound design. It's a jagged, dissociative way to begin the film, but it reflects Sam's emotional state, building up to a drunken afternoon that ends badly, with a lot of shame and embarrassment.

But then the film settles into a more emotional, slower register, and actor/co-writer Laurenzo allows Sam's vulnerability to catch up to her. In doing so, she allows the reality of her situation to hit her. But she also makes vital connections again, with her bandmate and friend and within herself. Even when facing the possibility of death, she's present with what makes her feel truly alive.

That proximity of mortality to a full, rich feeling of aliveness is the paradox of "The Stars and Thunder," explored in a simple but moving story. It's all too easy to sleepwalk through life and get bogged down by obligations, deadlines and responsibilities. But it's all too easy to let those crowd out the things and people that bring us vitality and joy. Stories like Sam help remind us to strike those balances now before it's too late.

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