Connor is meeting up with his best friend Rach with a very special birthday present. Secretly in love with Rach, he hopes the present — and the reaction it’s aimed to provoke — will also give him the opportunity to declare his feelings and shift their relationship in a more romantic direction.
But when Rach finally arrives, there just doesn’t seem to be a right moment to give Rach her birthday gift, which is truly special and unique: a mysterious space rock from Siberia. When Rach finally opens up her present, though, her lunch with Connor takes a truly unexpected turn, giving rise to Connor’s repressed feelings and stifled sentiments.
Writer-director Matt Vesely’s spritely, buoyant short has a relatable premise that’s formed the backbone of many romantic comedies: someone is secretly in love with, and must summon the courage to tell them how they feel. But a sci-fi twist adds a fascinating complication that makes Connor’s journey all the more hard-won — and makes for both visual spark and terrific physical comedy.
The film sets up Connor’s dilemma in a brisk, economical way, establishing all the key elements of the story. The storytelling sets up Connor and Rach’s rapport through an easygoing manner and charming, witty banter, as well as Connor’s nervousness. It also cleverly sets up a wobbly chair, the space rock, a disgruntled waiter, and the way Connor wipes his nervous sweat on a chair — all of which will come into play as the story develops.
The writing is a small, delightful masterwork in setting up a multiplicity of jokes and gags that pay off in a veritable aria of physical and situational comedy. But it also takes the care to note the tiny internal moments that make for an effective emotional turning point, deftly tracing an arc from hopeful anxiety to fearful retreat.
Actor Tom Ward does excellent work both playing Connor’s anxiety and clear affection for Rach, and the moment he stifles his truth lands as a small yet piercing heartbreak, while actor Erin James plays Rach as not just a love interest, but a smart, dimensional character with thoughts, feelings and agendas of her own — one that may be open to Connor’s overtures if he ever puts his feelings out in the open. Watching Connor reach that point and find his courage is cleverly and charmingly executed, as well as a proverbial gas.
Visually “My Best Friend Is Stuck on the Ceiling” elevates itself above the typical rom-com, with a subtle sense of precision found in the slight sheen of the cinematography and a deliberateness in the camera movement in certain shots that seems more akin to a modern-day sci-fi film — which of course sets us up for the “out of this world” twist.
But it’s this element that finally gets Connor out of his head, helps him chuck all the expectations and painstaking scenarios that he built in his head and truly face the person in front of him. It’s this presence — and the way control of the situation is wrenched away from him in many ways — that helps Connor level with Rach. And while it ends with the situation up in the air — all puns intended! — the real happy ending for Connor is that he’s told his truth and found the courage to be emotionally authentic.