This James Dubbeldam dude seems like he's a pretty cool guy if you ask me. As a writer/director, he seems to be proudly unpredictable. He has a multitude of interests that could essentially have him filming a wide variety of stories in an equally widespread range of genres and styles. I've seen him use a variety of filming methods, from still cams to split screens to flashback scenes, as we see in "LIFE Happens" with those good ol' vintage effects. I've seen him cleverly keep a cast coming back to work with him, notably Nathalie Soto Cuzin, who did a tremendous job starring in the short film "I Am ______." It's great to get to see a collage of ideas like this; it's like we get to view what the world is like through a different perspective in the work that James is doing.
While I'd probably argue that I still lean towards "I Am ______" as my favourite Dubbeldam film so far, I felt like "LIFE Happens" became a pretty close second. You've got a stellar word-less performance from Jeffrey Hurst as the lead character, who "wakes up in a lifeless room, oddly similar to his own," - according to the write-up that comes along with the official synopsis of "LIFE Happens." Keep in mind that I'm trying to walk that fine line as a reviewer not to give too much away, so I'll say just what I need to – if you're reading that quote above closely, you'll come to know where this film is going to end up by the time it's all over, and even better understand how it really all started to begin with.
I dig the way that James has put this concept together onscreen one hundred percent. You could view it like a movie about multiple outfits and the journey they've been on, you could view it more specific to Martin and the adventures he's had, or you could back it out even further and let it be more generic – as in, "LIFE Happens," and this is a snapshot of what occurs along the way. Ultimately, it feels like you can't really lose - no matter which of those lenses you might choose to see a short film like this one through. Heck, it's a short film – watch it three times, and use all three!
I like that "LIFE Happens" has an ominous mood and a curiosity-inducing way of being shown to us. It has you appreciating how different things in life retain their own memories, know what I mean? There could be all kinds of things that you forget or don't think about on a daily basis – but what if you were to simply put on a suit or a different outfit, and that was all you needed to reconnect with a flood of memories from your past? Or ride in a car you used to own? Perhaps you run into an old friend in the coffee shop that you haven't seen for years or smell a loaf of fresh bread that takes you right back to your childhood. It could be any of these kinds of things that remind us about who we are, what we've experienced, and where we've come from. In the context of "LIFE Happens," James chose that vehicle to be clothing, and there's no doubt it worked.
A large part of the reason that it does work - is that Jeffrey does such a magnificent job in his role as Martin, alone in a single room, somewhat forced to re-examine the different steps he's taken along his journey through life. I'd also say that this film concludes in spectacular fashion, serving as what's essentially a reminder to use the time you've got as wisely as you can. Memories are obviously great and all, but they pale in comparison to the present day and the ability to make MORE of 'em… that's the real benefit of LIFE.
I ended up looking at this movie from a very cool perspective. It felt like it was speaking out to me on this uniquely profound level that was somewhat daring me to take stock of where I was at in my own personal life - and whether or not I feel like I've accomplished enough, said enough to those I love most, or been present enough in my day to day life to appreciate how amazing each day genuinely is. I like to think I do my best, but watching something like "LIFE happens" truly calls that into question; we believe we are doing the best we can with the time we've got, but the reality is, we can always do MORE. I enjoyed this view from the other side of the curtain when it came right down to it, and felt that even though we know where "LIFE Happens" is going - perhaps from the very moment we start watching it, isn't that actually quite a revelatory way of looking at this film and how it relates to life itself? We have an inherent understanding of our mortality, and though we might choose not to think about it each and every day we're alive, we still know where our path eventually leads us. "LIFE happens" in between the lines - along the way, and if you're not careful, you might just miss it. Dubbeldam's created a solid parallel to our experiences here in this film – a companion piece that confirms we were here and that we mattered in so many ways.
"LIFE happens" is both sincerely thought-provoking and definitely based on what's real if you think about it – and believe me, I did. I'm going with a solid three and a half stars out of five here, right on the edge of being a four. I think that James did an exceptional job in presenting this idea and how this film plays out onscreen; I think Jeffrey put in an outstanding performance as Martin, I think young Nathalie has a very bright future ahead of her, and all-in-all, "LIFE happens" easily retained my interest from start to finish. While it's likely true that many of us will come to quickly see how this film will inevitably conclude…well… that's LIFE, ain't it? It happens.