The Second Session

Corporate policies can be a labyrinthine minefield of constraints that stifle not only a person’s creative energy but also professional potential. That the corporate working life, intentionally or not, cultivated a misogynist culture that it let boil over- the ramifications of which are still present today- means there is plenty for anyone, especially a female, to be angry about.

Using these frustrations as a springboard for creative endeavors is a time-honored tradition. In movies, 9 To 5 focuses on the sexual harassment side of things, whereas How To Get Ahead In Advertising is all about the pressure put upon the workers to increase their company’s brand recognition. The short film The Second Session aims to say something about office politics and the corporate landscape, it is just not very clear about its ideology.

Meredith (Meredith Adelaide) is undergoing a simulation in a doctor’s office. In this non-reality, she tells Paul, her boss, she plans on leaving to do the same job at a competing company. He does not take this news well, and she gets berated and fired. The simulation (never referred to as virtual reality, so let’s stick with calling it a simulation) restarts.

This time, she stabs a co-worker who is telling her about the restaurant he went to for lunch. Meredith then beats Paul to death with his golf club. She wakes up in the doctor’s office, nose slightly bleeding, now needing to confront her boss for real.

“…a person no matter how seemingly calm and together on the surface can give way to violent tendencies…”

Considering the title is The Second Session, presumably, the session with all the killing is meant to represent Meredith’s true self. However, a person no matter how seemingly calm and together on the surface can give way to violent tendencies. Much more importantly, if those aspects stay in the realm of fleeting thoughts or a quick daydream, that is healthy. Release the anger or frustration within the imagination, and, while it may not be able to set everything right, it will help get your mind off it at the time and calm you down.

Screen and comic book writer Gerard Jones authored a book in 2002 called Killing Monsters. It is about, “why children need fantasy, superheroes, and make-believe violence.” While the 16 years between now and then have seen the world change dramatically in some ways, the principles still hold true. Roughly halfway through the book, in chapter 7, Jones relates the story of parents Gina and Allen. With their first child, Harrison, they had a “no violent anything” rule, so no toy guns or swords, nor any shows that showed people hurting other people.

When their second son, Joseph, was around three years old, he started turning everything into a sword; it did not matter what the item was actually for. A pencil was now a sword. The TV remote control, also a sword. Have an empty paper towel roll? Definitely a sword. Harrison and Joseph both have intense, raw emotions that can lead to extreme anger in some cases. Their parents discovered that by allowing them to roughhouse, to play cops and robbers, to fling slingshot foam balls at each other, not only relaxed the two children but helped them feel more in control over their emotional state. It also nurtures their imaginations and allows the kids to make distinctive lines between fantasy and reality, which children need to learn how to discern.

“…a very refreshing way to reset and go into the more murderous session.”

So, if it is good for your well being to at least have aggressive thoughts, so long as one knows how to appropriately respond in real life, what is to be gleaned from Meredith’s sci-fi lite excursion? That she was concerned for her future and worried about things out of her control (such as Paul’s reaction to her news)? All of these are signs of a mentally stable human being.

Writer-director Michael Ward is a strong visual stylist with an evident talent behind the camera. The cinematography is luminous, with a dynamism and kineticism which is impossible to tear your eyes from. After Paul fires Meredith, which prevents her from working at any competing companies for one year, she glares at him as he walks away to table tennis his frustrations into oblivion. The camera then dollies into her eye and back out, with Meredith now in a total change of clothes. It is a very refreshing way to reset and go into the more murderous session.

Ward is far less assured as a writer though. Meredith’s desire to leave her current position for an almost identical one at another place is presumably due to better pay or benefits but doesn’t make much sense. Since the audience is given two very different perceptions of Meredith, there isn’t a clear way to relate to the real her. Moreover, as already discussed ad nauseum, the entire point seems to belie natural instinct and mentally healthy behaviors.

The Second Session is well acted, amazingly directed, and holds the seed of an original, engaging idea in its story. However, the writing does not allow for any characterization, and since it ignores the difference between having a thought and acting on it in the real world, the story lacks a clear message or takeaway.

The Second Session (2018) Directed by Michael Ward. Written by Michael Ward. Starring Meredith Adelaide, Paul Glazier, Kurt Conroyd, Jed Arkley.

4 Gummi Bears (out of 10)

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