Riding on the heels of the Director’s Club review of Just In Case, and because the film is so close to my heart as well, I thought I’d make it the highlight of the day. As wonderful as that review is, I wanted to have my own, also very personal, say about this piece.
Every year in the festival there’s at least a film or two that I can’t watch without tearing up, and this year, this is that film. It’s a short film featuring only a conversation—but the emotion etched onto the speakers’ faces, the raw, honest words of the conversation you don’t normally hear, and some interesting angles and sound design make it riveting. What stands out more than anything is its absolute “realness.” You feel like you are really listening into something intimate and true.
And that’s because it *is* real. The writer and actress, April Kelley, who lives with bipolar disorder, says that everything that happens in the film is drawn from real conversations she remembers having with her father over coffee at service stations.
I know it’s real for another reason–because it’s real to me. I remember at least a couple of different occasions when I was having episodes that frightened off a lot of people and my father would calmly take me to one of our favorite cafes and, over coffee, ask exactly the question the father figure in Just In Case does: “So explain to me, what is it like?” He really didn’t know what my bipolar disorder felt like, but he wanted to understand and always listened without judgement. I know that, much like in the film, I would occasionally say things that broke my father’s heart just by being honest about how it felt. He would say things, much like the father in the film expressed, like he never realized how hard it was, but most importantly, that he thought I was special despite and maybe even because of my mental illness.
Some of the sentiments the character expresses in the film are eerily similar to thoughts I’ve entertained before—like not wearing a seat belt in the back seat of the car because if it crashes, you have an easy way out; and especially feeling when you wake up in the morning “fuck me, I gotta do this all over again.” I imagine these are thoughts many people with a serious mental illness and some without entertain, but are afraid to express. They are especially difficult to express to a concerned parental figure because you don’t want to hurt or worry them, or become “hard work,” as she phrases it. Yet, that’s how it really feels.
The most heartbreaking part of the film is when the father laments that there’s nothing he can do to fix his little girl. This is a problem that the strong parental nurturing instinct can’t remedy. The best thing he can do is to listen without judgement and try to support, and the best she can do is honestly confide. They both do that very well, which ends the film on a note of hope.
Check out Just In Case in Shorts Block No. 1 in the virtual festival: