Seven Short Films About (Our) Marriage
Written and Directed by Christopher J. Hansen
Featuring Drez Ryan, Chynna Walker, John Ruegsegger
Imperfect. Tense. A struggle. People never want to admit that these terms apply to marriage as much as respect, devotion, and love. Yet they do and it’s okay to concede that the good and the bad are all part of any marriage, successful or not.
In writer/director Christopher J. Hansen’s latest film “Seven Short Films About (Our) Marriage”, the realities of a modern marriage are front and center in the forms of Madison (Chynna Walker) and Noah (Drez Ryan), a young couple just out of college who get married while on the way to achieving their dreams.
Madison wants to be a professional dancer and Noah wants to be a filmmaker who will “change the world”. These are two people full of life and dreams and a bright future who fell in love and desire to spend the rest of their lives together. Their love for one another is pure. Their grasp of how a marriage works is not so realistic, at least in the beginning.
It is their wedding day that brings the first reality check.
Madison’s father confronts Noah in the dressing room mere minutes before the ceremony is about to begin. As he prepares to defiantly light a cigar, her father immediately begins to have an ill-timed and inappropriate conversation with Noah.
The scene exudes disrespect as Madison’s father refuses look Noah in the eye until he decides to insult him. The father claims he is worried if the two of them have kids, they will “start out life with a disadvantage.”, as “mixed kids” have a hard time in life. Yet he claims to not be racist, only concerned for his daughter’s future. A textbook racist rationalization to excuse away a racist way of thinking. It is a harsh moment and rightfully disturbs Noah.
This is not the way to begin a marriage.
It is the director’s intent as a filmmaker to let his audience know that no matter how “whirlwind romantic” a relationship can be, the tough times will come knocking when you least expect them. Hansen is not cynical with his screenplay. He is merely laying it all out and manages to achieve a truth that many modern relationship films never reach.
In a wonderfully written and acted moment, we find Madison and Noah at their 10-year college reunion. The scene plays out like a sweeter version of Stanley Kubrick’s dangerous party scene full of temptations from “Eyes Wide Shut”.
In Kubrick’s film, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise are mingling during a posh party and each one is tempted by flirtatious guests who want to sleep with them.
In Hansen’s piece, Madison and Noah are attending their reunion and run into their respective exes. At first (as they are separately forced to confront their past lovers), it seems as if there will be an uncomfortable moment of “maybe I should have been with this person”. Dramatically, this would be too easy, and Hansen’s screenplay is too smart to give in. The scene turns into a crosscutting of dual monologues where the couple recounts the story of how they met and eventually fell in love. The inherent sweetness of the moment is perfectly captured by the two actors.
The film’s design is not a gimmick. The seven “short films” play as snapshots from a photo album that lay out a map of the road Madison and Noah have traveled together. Director Hansen guides the audience through some truly rough emotional terrain. Wisely, he doesn’t give his actors any emotionally explosive moments. Not all people scream at one other and Hansen’s film successfully takes the quieter route.
Chynna Walker and Drez Ryan are perfect as Madison and Noah. Their performances achieve an honesty that is refreshing. We believe their work and are fully committed to their characters.
Madison and Noah put in the work to overcome the obstacles that life lays in front of them. That is all they can do. It is all any of us can do.
If Hansen’s film can feel cliched at times, assure yourself that it isn’t. Life is difficult. Marriage is difficult. Couples laugh and argue and make love and fall in and out of desire for one another. Temptations arise and disappointments crush. Many things work out. Some do not.
“Seven Short Films About (Our) Marriage” is a truthful film that gets to the core of a modern marriage. It may make some viewers uncomfortable, as Madison and Noah navigate the ups and downs of making their union work. Nothing is sugarcoated. There is happiness and there is anger. There are good days and bad. There are times when the two cannot function without one another and other times where they need some space. Most importantly, there is love.
Such is life. Such is marriage.
100 minutes, NR, Theoretical Entertainment