Mitch and Emma are breaking up, having a difficult and emotional conversation about the end of their relationship.
But in the middle of it, they’re interrupted by a stranger named Ryan, who’s looking to buy Mitch’s bass amp, who’s totally clueless about what he’s walked into.
Writer-director Matt Porter’s small comedy is a small slice-of-life narrative that derives its humor less from gags, pranks and silliness and more from the awkward juxtaposition of the different realities that people occupy as they go about their life.
On one hand, there’s the central couple, played by Kate Eastman and Ryan Creamer, who play their break-up scene with the sincere vulnerability and heartbreak of an earnest relationship drama.
On the other hand, there’s the clueless bystander played by Patrick Noth, who is oblivious to the drama unfolding in front of him. To him, he’s in a movie of his own making, as an up and coming musician who needs only this amp for musical glory.
The film derives its edge and humor through the collision of these two different “movies.” Through witty, funny but emotionally honest writing and a set of deft performances that navigate both the comedic and dramatic demands of the material, the dissolving couple try to handle their interruption with grace, momentarily suppressing their raw feelings and the reality of what’s going on in the presence of an outsider.
But the amp buyer simply doesn’t wise up to what’s happening in front of him, slowly raising the tension for Mitch and Emma, who just want to move on with their difficult conversation. Ryan never gets a clue, which leads to an impassioned outburst from Emma, which becomes the film’s centerpiece monologue about love, loss and acceptance. It’s a moving, powerhouse moment, full of emotion and honesty, and it’s wonderfully juxtaposed with cutaways to the clueless looks from Ryan, wondering what’s really going on in front of him.
“Damage” is small-scale in its narrative scale — just three people in a room having a conversation — but it unfurls a huge amount of awkward but very real pathos and humor from its story, writing and performances. Relatable and well-executed, the short is both a well-earned laugh at life’s absurdity and a love letter of gratitude and pain to past relationships. It also offers a small reminder that everyone is dealing with something in life, even right in front of us — we only need to truly open our eyes to see it, in all its real, weird, awkward authenticity.