Ashley is having her bridal shower, complete with party games and a motley assortment of guests. But as the small celebration gets underway, it becomes clear that she’s having second thoughts about getting married.
She must confront her deep ambivalence about her fiance Jesse, and when faced with the cold reality of future matrimony to him, must decide to take drastic action — though the runaway train of marriage may have already left the station.
This fascinating dramedy short by director M. Keegan Uhl — based on a script by leading actor Caitlin Norton Wyatt — seems initially on the surface to be a female-centered comedy of manners, focused as it is on courtship and marriage and one woman’s step forward.
Whether it’s with its keenly sharp eye towards the comical eccentricities of the other guests’ behavior, the gleaming, brightly hued cinematography or the brisk, almost effervescent pacing of the writing and dialogue, the film seems at first like another well-crafted modern romantic comedy.
It has an ear for the ironic reaction or sarcasm, and an eye for the satire and silliness of bridal culture, which is often mined for moments of comedy. But there are often mordant touches that undercut the glossiness — like the small dead fish that Ashley tends to — that indicate all is not what it seems.
Wyatt’s performance as Ashley also grounds itself into a different, deeper emotional reality, forming the core and crux of the film’s dynamic arc, which is focused on Ashley facing her truth and voicing that reality.
As Ashley shifts as a character, however, the film seems to evolve out of its initial rom-com trappings, becoming more visually shadowy and muted. At a key turning point, Ashley is confronted with the ugly reality that is her fiance — and the storytelling becomes something more unexpected, riveting and even gloriously unpredictable, culminating into an emotionally ferocious, shocking climax.
Ashley’s final actions in “Jesse’s Girl” are extreme, and the well-constructed twist in the film’s style and storytelling are mirrored in a parallel plot twist at its end. We won’t give it away, but it’s the type of twist that may compel viewers to watch the short narrative all over again. It can’t help but reframe and recalibrate what we’ve just seen, turning it into something much more tragic and even heartwrenching. Though it shocks, it’s a twist that doesn’t cheapen the deft, clever storytelling, but instead adds another layer of interpretation — revealing a sharp, intelligent eye for the way women’s lives and choices play out, and the gap between dreams and reality.