Phi Huynh, Celine Tsai
Relationships can be messy. Unless you're a much older, established couple - they usually are. The way a table is set or the way a cupboard is organized, all factor into the long term commitment of a couple. Or lack of. Once the honeymoon period is over, the quips of a couple are finally revealed - sometimes with devastating consequences. Such as the evolution of Mike (Phi Huynh) and Sophie (Christine Nguyen) throughout their relationship. That on-again, off-again struggle many of us know so well. Not only is this back-and-forth immediately familiar to most of us, it's also the perfect tie-in to this short film.
"Picking Things Up" at it's heart, deals with the uncertainty so many of us feel - and are sometimes overcome by. All in the hopes of finding that perfect, flawless, someone special. It's only when the imperfections cause tension, we truly question both ourselves and our partners... and sometimes those things we hate become the very building blocks, to a long happy life together. Interesting stories worthy of telling future generations. Or perhaps the opposite - a life lesson to be learned from and set free.
The condensed story here? Mike and Sofie begin the film as a former couple trying to move on. Things haven't worked out in the past - yet a connection is clearly still present. So strong perhaps, that remaining friends is out of the question. But what if? What if another attempt can bring forth a different result? Clearly there are differences - and perhaps a third party is making a decision more difficult? As the couple finally decide to give things another try, all the old annoyances resurface. But maybe they don't matter? Could they be the very cause of the attraction? The love? As co-writer and director Celine Tsai weaved her familiar story, I couldn't help but wonder how things would turn out. Until that final satisfying third act - and let me tell you reader - it was well worth the wait. "Picking Things Up" doesn't solve the worlds problems within it's final scenes, definitely not Mike and Sophie's - but what ever does in the real world? Is it a happy ending? Again, my only advice is to watch for yourself when this title becomes available. Clocking in at under fifteen minutes - there's really no excuse not to.
This is one of those micro budget indie films that truly looks so much bigger. With some excellent cinematography, a great audio presentation and some slick editing - "Picking Things Up" really doesn't look indie at all. At first I was a little apprehensive, simply because this film utilizes the dreadfully trendy camera shake... but I was won over. You will be as well.
I fully understand the theory of movement. Adding drama to a scene that may feel a little slow. I also understand that it's a newer trend, and one I personally don't like. Especially when not used properly. Luckily for me... everything was handled and done well. Expertly even. This isn't hand-held a-la-waving around your cell phone camera - and it's inclusion in the third act was actually perfect for the scene. It doesn't happen often, but I found myself clenching my fists during a very dramatic action sequence. One that was definitely not filmed using tripods or a dolly system. Well done...
... but all this technical opinion isn't where this short film really shines. It's the cast portrayals. "Picking Things Up" deals with some potentially movie crashing themes. If not done correctly by the actors - everything else amounts to squat. But here, in this short film, the drama is within the acting. Phi Huynh and Christine Nguyen own the screen - with a completely believable chemistry and realism. These are not perfect people. They are flawed. There's anger, jealousy and indecision - and there's something else. Maybe even love. Then we have Sam played by Samy Osman. He's the third wheel in this little adventure. The other man, so to speak. He doesn't have the dialog of our two mains, but his presence can't be denied. Samy plays his part near perfectly, and it's not hard to see why Sophie is a little on the fence as she tries to decide what she wants. The perfect addition to this little drama. Indeed.
At the end of the day, this is a splendidly well done film. Although a little cliche, as far as love stories go, one could argue that being slightly familiar makes audience connections that much easier. In under fifteen minutes "Picking Things Up" hits all the marks. A slick and polished quick hit of a movie - and I have no problem awarding an outstanding four stars.