Jayson Johnson, Sara Anders
There's a whole lot to be appreciated about this short film. While it might only be around eight minutes in length, director Jayson Johnson hasn't really left anything out. Sometimes it can be beneficial to zoom right in on a singular moment in time and expand on the idea as powerfully as possible. That's exactly what Johnson has achieved in "T.H.O.T?" by putting this tale of love in the modern-day era under the microscope. It is an examination of what does and doesn't make love work and a remarkably observant story about how information itself works and how we filter it individually.
Without giving too much away, you see a conversation in a barber shop set the stage for this story to be told the right way. What we assume would be the main character is in one of the chairs, listening to a conversation being had behind him in the waiting area, discussing the merits of "Stacey with three kids, or Stacey with none." Jayson does a fantastic job of showing you everything you need onscreen and how the wheels of information turn. The dude we assume is the main character, ready to go on his date with "Stacey with none" later that evening, hears the stories being told behind his back (and hers on a metaphorical level, let's be real) and you can visually see him struggling to come to grips with what he hears, while another guy in the room expresses disgust towards the men that are knee deep in gossip. Then, as we watch Stacey get ready for her date that night and we see flashbacks of the man she's looking forward to seeing again, we get a gift from Johnson at this particular point in the film – and that's the ability to interpret what we see.
For some out there, you might find "T.H.O.T?" is a tale of loose morals – to me, this film was much more of an insightful view of how people interpret what they hear as truth, and make judgments, regardless of their own experience. Until he had heard that conversation, this dude was fully into Stacey – and afterward, we see how that information affects him to the point where he's not only unsure, but he's sure that he's unsure about the future of that relationship entirely - which to me, was sad. You feel like you know what's coming for Stacey, and you probably do. Chances are, that's because you've experienced something just like it yourself, or you know someone that you care about that has - or you can simply empathize with Stacey putting herself out there for love and what the sting of rejection would be like.
Perfectly played by Phoenyx Rose, who is absolutely knockout gorgeous, she really seems to understand this character of Stacey Jenkins inside and out, and knows how to bring us into her world, whether it's hopeful or heartbreaking – and it is both of those at different points. While she's fantastic throughout this film, she really nails her scenes in the restaurant and the most pivotal plot points in the story. It's right around here that we sense this night isn't going to go as planned for her, and she brilliantly portrays the emotions that come along with that.
Where "T.H.O.T?" goes from good to great is how it approaches its ending and confirms what the film has been trying to say all along. Again, there will be some out there that interpret this story as a tale of people with loose morals – at least at first – but I fully believe that gets resolved by the way Johnson reveals the ending through the conversation had by Stacey and the restaurant waiter. That's where you realize that life and love may not have to be so complicated. Maybe things are meant to be more simple than that when it's the right thing for all parties concerned. Perhaps everything happens for a reason, and we're pretty lucky that it does. True love can find us in the strangest places – and chances are, it's almost never found in the places where you're looking for it. That being said, and as "T.H.O.T?" will prove, love will find you, one way or the other – so don't ever give up hope. "T.H.O.T?" is well-shot, smartly written, and has everything it needs – "T.H.O.T?" also gets an easy four stars from me.