Jack and Jane are a young married couple, deeply connected and in love. They check into a hotel room for the weekend, looking to celebrate a special occasion for Jane.
They talk, laugh, kiss, goof around, aiming to have fun and “have a blast.” They take a bath together; they eat junk food; they play a scavenger game.
As the evening unfurls, though, there is something just a bit off. Moments that are close and intimate are edged with awkwardness. Jane can’t quite relax into the fun. And as the night wears on, it comes clear just why Jane is there and what occasion they are commemorating.
Writer-director Ginger Gonzaga’s powerful and moving drama initially seems almost like a documentary of a chapter in the life of a couple and a woman, with a narrative scope that keeps its focus within the hotel room and in the moments unfolding between Jack and Jane. The film is shot with a richly moody naturalism, its camera’s keen eye focused on the charming little details that make up happy memories — the fall of confetti on the floor, the way a hug feels, the pleasure of eating pizza.
The editing and pacing are dictated by the film’s insistence on luxuriating in these sensory details, as well as the strong and playful bond between the couple. At first, viewers may question why the film is taking its time, as charming and whimsical as these details may be. However, as the narrative turns and reveals the true nature of Jane’s “celebration,” we discover the reason for the narrative sleight-of-hand, and the savoring of moments and details becomes stunningly poignant. Even when the nature of Jane’s occasion is revealed, the film insists on taking its time, and viewers get a disconcerting, discomfiting and at times comically mundane sense of a process not often captured or experienced.
Actors Ginger Gonzaga and Jason Ritter bring Jane and Jack to life with a great sense of understatement, especially as they oscillate between “embracing the moment” and avoiding the reality they’re about to face. In many ways, Jane’s situation is inherently moving, but the performances have the gift of invoking a rich history and life before the film’s narrative begins — and giving us a sense of what’s at stake during and after. It’s easy not to be drawn in by the couple and their affection — which makes the film’s reveal all the more devastating.
At over 30 minutes, “Your Day” is especially long for a short film, and these longer shorts are usually tough to program for film festivals. Yet the film enjoyed a robust run on the festival circuit, which is a testament to its ultimate power. Viewers who have the discernment and patience to read between the moments will come away with a profound respect and understanding of life’s great passages. The film takes its time — but in the end, time is the only thing we truly have, to be filled with the small yet beautiful moments and experiences that make up a life.