John and Emily are a long-term couple. But John is now alone, rattling in the apartment they once shared together.
As he moves about the apartment, his internal visions of Emily drift in and out, revealing the intense but troubled arc of their relationship and questioning the truth behind Emily’s eventual absence.
An official competition selection for the Golden Lion at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, writer-director Jack Davies’s short drama examines what it means like to be haunted by lost love, and how memories can blur the lines between past and present as the lingering feelings stalk us, despite all attempts to evade them.
The narrative terrain is about love, romance, trust and betrayal, but the film isn’t shot like a conventional drama, using traditional continuity-style editing to create an emotional accessibility and spatial and narrative clarity with its characters and story.
Instead, it unfurls in a breathtaking one-shot, whose restless, documentary-style camerawork roves the apartment that John shares with his wife as he moves about it, chased by the memory or imaginings of his wife.
Most one-shots tend to add intensity and tension to the action portrayed onscreen, not allowing viewers to escape the present moment and forcing them to feel every beat and nuance of what’s happening. But in a fascinating, risk-taking move, the storytelling stages past memories (and perhaps alternate imaginings) within the fabric of the one-shot, moving the actors in and out of the frame as the narrative of this fractured relationship unfolds.
With this approach, the space between past and present — and maybe real and imagined — collapses, and beyond Jack’s emotional arc and journey, viewers will likely question just what is real, what is truth and what isn’t. What keeps the film grounded in this deliberate evocation of uncertainty is a beautiful, melancholic musical score that underlines key moments and emotions, as well as excellent performances by actors Jamie Draven and Julia Hickman as Jack and Emily.
The one-shot format is obviously demanding on a technical level, and the story’s nonlinearity adds another degree of complexity. But both actors are able to relate the specific, complex history of this couple with precision and subtlety, hitting emotional truths without giving away the film’s secrets.
“A Case of You” is a powerful examination of emotional fragility and uncertainty that comes from losing love, but it’s not just a story of a love story gone awry. Its biggest artistic strength is its willingness to evoke the confusion of its main character and make it part of its guiding concerns about perception, emotion and memory.
The uncertainty may be uncomfortable or strange for viewers, but it also invites questions of just how much relationships exist in our heads, as projections of our own inner neuroses and demons — and how much they are based on reality and on what’s actually happening in front of us. Is John being paranoid? Did he drive Emily away? Maybe we live inside our heads so much that such questions for John — as well as ourselves — are unanswerable in the grand scheme of things.