By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.
“Yeah, Love” (2008), the seventeen minute and fourteen second debut short from writer-director Becca Roth, is simple, straight-forward and honest. This is in the most effective manner possible. The gentle sincerity it takes towards its coming of age content and characterizations elevates both the general charm and overall optimism of the piece tremendously well. Unlike most romantic comedy-dramas of late, Roth has derived a narrative credibly built from reality imitating dialogue, circumstances, causes and effects. Never once do we sense the project is deliberately pushing its audience and manipulating its leads towards a pre-conceived destination. Instead, we are given a finale which is merited, spectacularly designed, quaintly ambitious and sentimentally rousing. To its continued praise, the means in which the configuration doesn’t weigh itself down in melodrama or overwrought idealism, so prevalent in similar fare, makes this all the more genuine, joyous, upsetting and refreshing.
There is no lack of subtlety in Roth’s use of symbolism. These often expose the men of the fiction as stereotypically hormonal and occasionally combative. Regardless, this certainly enhances the perspective of hurt, angst, confusion and unexpected bliss which formulates the singular outlook of the affair. It is also just as reflective of the largely confusing teenage years as a whole. This range works exceptionally throughout. This is because it mechanizes, though often in a standard fashion, as a way of getting us inside the interior of our awkward heroine, Emmily (in an ever-likable performance by Crystal Franceschini which is impossible not to be captivated by.).
Roth taps into a portrait of youth that is charming and endearing. This is because it is so universally relatable. For instance, Emmily often tries to mask the embarrassment her loving dad (Timothy J. Cox in a standout role that is hilarious and earnest; proving again his chameleon-like ability to make any character he is given completely his own) unintentionally casts her way. We are also given more than our share of tear-jerking moments. Such is apparent when Emmily tries to shut the world out entirely. There is an extended segment where she lies on the floor of her home in complete defeat. Such arrives late in the second half of the arrangement. This is a deft example of such tropes operating at uniquely high levels of relevance. Emmily’s voice-over, credited to Roth, also adds infinitely to these sharply drawn qualities. This is because this aspect stings with often self-deprecating humor and wit. It is also laced with tragic doubts and observations. Such makes for a rounded, smartly paced, tonally fluent and always enjoyable slice of cinema.
Roth chronicles the shy, Emmily. Often seen avoiding social situations and making a fool of herself when all eyes are on her, the unimaginable pressures of high school on the introverted is beautifully and tenderly expressed. The nervousness that Emmily elicits when around others is heightened when she finds herself having a crush on an older female student, Milo (Paton Ashbrook in a wonderful turn; a perfect counterpart to Franceschini’s bold enactment). After a chance meeting in a park between the two, the once seemingly unmanageable relationship Emmily would like to have with Milo doesn’t appear so unlikely. There is a comically successful and engaging montage where Emmily tries to put her feelings for Milo into words. The next day, Emmily hesitantly and fearfully delivers the composition to Milo. The harsh laughter it exudes from fellow classmates causes a crushing, and terrifically captured, flash of pain and humiliation. From herein, Roth seems intent to make the heart soar. This is as the exertion hits an impassioned and splenderous zenith. Such is a sensation it carries on its back victoriously in resonate concluding minutes. All of these incidents are given extra dimension by the perfectly punctual songs which formulate the soundtrack. “Be Be Your Love” by Rachel Yamagata is especially atmospheric.
It is this canvas of alternating ambiances Roth paints this undertaking with spectacularly. The aforementioned sequence involving Emmily’s writ impressions is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the tale. Still, Roth turns out an arc that has more than its share of familiar categorical beats. Such is perceived in an opening that finds our lead riding in a form of public transportation by herself to personify her loneliness and isolation. Yet, the product endures as stalwart and refreshingly authentic. It never for an instance becomes as noticeably rote and stale as the similarly ardor filled entries which fill theaters nowadays.
This is largely courtesy of Roth’s uncanny ability to immediately pull us deeply into the Emmily’s vulnerable world. It keeps this watchable hold on its audience for the runtime. The result is the raising of the emotional stakes to unfathomable levels. We dearly want Emmily to unveil her happiness just as desperately as she does. This is proof of the brilliant writing Roth orchestrates. It is also a bravura showcase of the apparently effortless directorial style she demonstrates. Such is also a testament to the incredible caliber of the portrayals herein. Representatively, Paul Fabre as Toby, Ryan Radermacher as Brad, Michael Steiner as Duke, Monisha Chowdhary as Therapist and Isabel Hilario as Morgan are all fantastic in their small bits. Likewise, various other technical angles fare just as luminously. The cinematography from Aaron Fisher and Roth, who also issue the proficient sound gracing the endeavor, adds a gritty edge to the proceedings. The same can be said for Roth’s editing.
The Finding Emma Productions release is a massively illuminating achievement. Though Milo and those in the background of the story are intentionally only vaguely formed personalities, Emmily is incredibly developed. Roth has given us an exhibition of singular viewpoint that is fully encapsulating. This is a courageous student film. It is one brimming with talent and endlessly successful risk-taking. Though the theme Roth presents has long been utilized on the silver screen, it is as direct and necessary as ever. There is a natural, unrushed and clear touch to all we come across in “Yeah, Love”. Where lesser indulgences would sink beneath the acquainted components Roth weaves into the fabric of the saga, this opus is largely strengthened by them. Roth has crafted a real winner. This is a display of art imitating life at its finest.