Rocking Horses

By Rachel Serada Barth | Romance
A woman in crisis goes to a bar, then meets a man with a rocking horse.

Lanie is in the midst of some kind of personal crisis with her lover, and she heads out into the night for some distraction to keep her mind off her worries. She eventually finds herself at a bar, where she meets a man named Mark, who is oddly carrying a rocking horse. Their conversation is easygoing; their connection is palpable. But it's one that Lanie welcomes in her unhappy state.

They wander together throughout the night, talking and walking by the water. Their time together seems to lighten Lanie's spirits, but they part without a kiss or even an exchange of numbers, with Mark giving Lanie the rocking horse as a kind of goodbye gift. But that isn't all that they have left with one another.

Written and directed by Rachel Serada Barth, this meditative short romantic drama is a sensuous, moody exploration of the need for human connection. A coterie of lost souls turn from and towards one other for refuge, comfort and companionship. Its power lies in its recognition of how connection can be both yoked to and divorced from an equal desire for intimacy, and how fragile relationships can be as a result.

The storytelling is almost impressionistic, drifting from the rawness of Lanie's present moment to flashes of memories full of intimacy with a lover. Shot with a dark, hazy sense of color and lighting, it captures a diffuse moodiness and an atmosphere of seductiveness in its mostly nocturnal setting. As Lanie and Mark hang out, it also adds to the sense that anything can happen, and their dialogue has a lifelike quality of saying little but suggesting much. Everything happening between them is at the subtextual level, where it can be both acknowledged surreptitiously and denied with plausibility.

Much of the anticipation built up in the ambling storytelling concerns the question of what will happen between these two, and as their connection grows, the filmmaking takes on a glowing, textured feel that reflects a certain magic, where two people find some kind of ease and electricity between them. It's a potent emotional cocktail, brought alive by actors Christina Bradford and Sammy Obeid's understated yet precise performances. The real surprise is what happens after they part, as their fuller lives reveal themselves -- and the carefree facades they had for one another scuttle away in the morning light.

Compelling and dream-like, the magic trick of "Rocking Horses" is that, on some level, nothing happens. And yet, on another level, something definitely has occurred. We see the ease with which two people find each other and connect; we also see the effort involved in making sure it doesn't go too far to imperil something else. Its final, unexpected movement both answers questions but gives rise to more -- and makes us wonder about the relationship between connection, intimacy and human partnerships, and just how delicate it all is in the face of life's vagaries.

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