Two couples come together for a weekend getaway, sharing a house and hanging out together. Though they’re all friends, the couples are in different places in life. Claudia and Tom are a married couple trying to conceive and hitting a breaking point with their difficulties. Meanwhile, Skye and Mac are a young new couple whose relationship is still ambiguous and open, but new and exciting.
As the weekend progresses, however, tensions begin to rise. The married couple can’t help but contrast their current romantic and libidinal doldrums with the sexiness of the newer, more free-spirited couple, who can’t seem to get enough of one another. By the end of their time together, both couples will have changed, and in ways neither pair could have predicted.
Written and directed by Holly Hargreaves and Simone Ball Santamaria with dialogue improvised by the cast, this insightful, perceptive romantic dramedy has its funny moments as it follows two couples navigating their romantic and sexual travails. The low-key humor comes from the contrast between the two couples, who are in vastly different stages of relationships, and how each couple feeds the other’s insecurities. But there’s also an emotional honesty in the dialogue and performances that make for a sweet, thoughtful resonance at the film’s end.
The film’s dialogue was mostly improvised, and there’s a looseness and natural quality to the scenes that make for an easygoing rhythm to the storytelling. But the documentary-like observational quality in the naturalistic direction often captures the way that couples wrangle with one another over their needs for intimacy and connection. The camera’s eye captures the flickers of emotion and nuance between each couple and is especially sharp in portraying dynamics of avoidance and resentment at work between people.
The editing is particularly astute, especially during a sequence when both go to bed. One couple bickers about not having enough sex; the other is in the throes of passion and can’t find a condom. There’s wry humor in the difference, but the narrative is very perceptive on the wide gulf between the hopefulness and excitement of new love versus the way that marital issues can turn what was pleasurable and fun into drudgery.
The ensemble cast — featuring writer-directors Ball Santamaria and Hargreaves as Claudia and Skye, respectively, with Jackson Tozer as Tom and Frank Fazio as Mac — all have an excellent rapport and connection, which makes the understated moments of vulnerability and need between them all the more raw and honest. As it turns out, these moments are the fulcrum points of nearly all relationships, where a certain degree of maturity and authenticity are needed to navigate them successfully. And, sadly, not every couple can summon these to move past them.
Insightful and well-observed, “Trying” is a smart, even-keeled snapshot of modern relationships, capturing both the exciting beginning of new love and the challenges of long-term commitment. It’s enjoyable and entertaining to watch, but its resonance comes from its observation that relationships require more than chemistry and even compatibility to navigate the bumps that plague any romance. “Trying” is the rare relationship story that actually observes how partners relate to each other. Playful flirtation and repartee make love seem easy and attractive to viewers. But for it to endure and thrive, it also needs uncomfortable honesty, emotional resilience and empathy — and without these qualities, it falls apart, no matter what stage a couple is in.