Tristan and Isaac meet by happenstance one day and fall deeply in love. Their relationship is romantic and rhapsodic, and the two lovers exist in a bubble of their own. But when reality intrudes and the feeling of being swept away recedes, they have to face reality -- leading to a few harsh truths coming to the surface.
Written and directed by Michaela Myers (who also plays the co-lead role as Tristan), this short romance captures the rush of initial passion. It can intoxicate us with its powerful commingling of lust, fantasy and emotional bonding. But as the story of these two lovers shows, that state of mutual intoxication is just a few steps away from mutual delusion, and even deception.
The film makes a case for the unique ability of cinematic art to represent love's sensations and emotions, as scenes, music and images are woven together to capture Tristan and Isaac's infatuation. Captured with sensuous cinematography on textured 16mm film, the storytelling compresses the days and nights they spend together into an intimate montage, with equal parts erotic abandon and emotional connection. The performances between actors Myers and Andrew Bowen also capture the mutual passion between Tristan and Isaac, with their scenes together possessing both tenderness and desire.
In most traditional romances, this romantic montage comes as a reward after time is spent on the couple's "meet cute" and courtship leading to consummation. But here, the first meeting is handled with sparseness and economy, and the romantic montage comes quickly after. Frontloading the most joyful part of the romance leaves room for the storytelling to deconstruct the reality that Tristan and Isaac occupied as lovers. And lifting the veil is harsh for Tristan, as she discovers some harsh truths about Isaac, and about herself as well.
"Tristan and Isaac" was loosely inspired by the classic love tragedy of Tristan and Isolde, in which a love potion compels the namesake pair to seek out one another as lovers against all reason. With its elements of modern distraction, the short is updated with a contemporary edge. But like many classic love stories, it makes the case for romance and love being the ultimate magic from our realities, with all their choices and consequences. But as these lovers learn, reality is a harsh god, and as much as we keep it at bay, it inexorably comes crashing in and catches up with us all.