Every Other Week

By Ryan Wagner | Comedy
A young man is 'dumped' by his therapist. Then it takes an unexpected turn.

Kevin has been going to therapy for some time, developing a close bond of trust and vulnerability with his therapist. But as he talks about the latest difficult situation in his life, his therapist drops a bombshell: their time together has "come to a close."

The session takes an unexpected turn after the revelation, as Kevin navigates feelings of abandonment and rejection and the therapist has to uphold her boundaries while staying compassionate. But the contretemps leads to fascinating emotional territory for both parties, in unexpectedly moving ways.

Directed by Ryan Wagner from a script written by lead actor Michael Sturgis, this sharp, emotionally intelligent short comedy brings the phrase "painfully funny" to life. It earns its laughs not from punchlines or gags, but through its deep honesty about how we spin out when confronted in situations of deep vulnerability.

Written as a classic two-hander in mostly a single location, the short nevertheless has a sense of mastery and confidence in its set of pared-down elements, driven by terrific writing and performances. These are supported by an intimate, precise approach to camera and editing that puts us in the shoes of both its characters navigating a suddenly sticky situation. But the storytelling takes advantage of the intimacy of the therapist-client setting to go deep quickly, making for an unusually compelling take on a classic narrative structure.

Many shorts of this stripe focus on a narrative arc in which emotions bubble up to the surface when the stop-gaps of life and psyche no longer work. But Kevin has been "doing the work" with his therapist for some time, and it's clear from the film's opening that he has achieved some degree of comfort and trust via their close bond.

Or is it as close of a bond as he thought? Was it even a bond? Those are the questions that spin the story into uncharted emotional territory for Kevin when his therapist tells him their time together is ending. Taken unawares, a discombobulated Kevin may toss off many one-liners and take refuge in sarcasm and self-deprecation, and Sturgis as an actor carries off Kevin's verbal wit with aplomb. But that volubility masks the pain he feels at essentially being dropped from what may be the most emotionally open and safe space he has in life. That rejection makes for an uncomfortable but relatable watch and leads to an unexpectedly moving and delicate final exchange.

Essentially a witty, resonant riff on the break-up story, "Every Other Week" manages the trick of being both thorny and graceful, thanks to its combination of unvarnished social awkwardness with deep empathy. Maybe not everyone has been "fired" by their therapist. But nearly everyone has experienced rejection, or even thinking a relationship has been one thing, only to realize that perspective isn't quite shared by the other person. Maybe for Kevin, it's another step in a journey of self-awareness. But it's also a snapshot of how we often arrive at wisdom after a lot of hard work and suffering, learning to stay present with the painful feelings of life -- sometimes even with the help of those causing them.

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