Ben and Suzanne, A Reunion in 4 parts Image

Ben and Suzanne, A Reunion in 4 parts

By Benjamin Franz | March 11, 2024

SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2024 REVIEW! Relationships are inherently messy. When it’s a long-distance one, it becomes ever increasingly messy. Such is the scenario that unfolds in writer-director Shaun Seneviratne’s Ben and Suzanne, A Reunion in 4 Parts. Ben (Sathya Sridharan) is a well-meaning American-Indian of Tamil extraction (this will come to play later). Suzanne (Anastasia Olowin) is the love of his life. She works in finance for a series of non-governmental organizations. Currently, she is doing all the paperwork and bill-collecting activities for an NGO that provides micro-loans to women in Sri Lanka. This has forced their relationship to become very long distance.

Arriving in Sri Lanka between Christmas and New Year’s, Ben intends to spend a few weeks with his partner having a good time. Unfortunately for both of them, Suzanne’s job has taken over her existence. Her drive is to provide the best value she can for her clients, and everything else suffers because of this single-minded focus.

To make matters worse, Suzanne has chosen to upend her personal lifestyle. She is not only vegan now but has chosen to be sober during the holiday period. Ben does not help his case for spending time with her by choosing to resume smoking, claiming he has found these fabulous vintage Korean cigarettes at the Sri Lankan airport. He also remains singularly focused on himself and his needs. This holiday, which was meant to be a fabulous vacation for Ben and Suzanne, ends up being a nightmare for these modern, young, progressive romantics.

“…Ben intends to spend a few weeks with his partner…Suzanne’s job has taken over her existence.”

Through the lens of this fictitious relationship at its heart, Ben and Suzanne, A Reunion in 4 Parts presents the profound issues that develop between two people in a long-distance relationship. Such obstacles become especially nuanced and terrible when allowed to simmer beneath the surface, as Ben and Suzanne enable them to. Episodes involving looking for a morning-after pill, a night of drinking gone wrong, and solo hikes all lead to an inexorable and inescapable conclusion: these two people have some serious and irreconcilable differences.

The acting is wonderful. This is good news, as the narrative hinges on us following the stories of both Ben and Suzanne. This weird, kooky movie lodges itself in your heart. You feel for these two people who are clearly operating without a roadmap. For Suzanne, it’s all about her work for her clients. For Ben, it’s all about having a good time. This clash of motivations is brilliantly explored in this piece. There’s a verisimilitude here that resonates with contemporary relationships. Sridharan is fun and fun-loving. Olowin makes her character’s radical changes seem like a natural extension of her ideals and values.

As these two strange young people curl up with Starship TroopersBen and Suzanne, A Reunion in 4 Parts invites you to experience Ben and Suzanne’s weird, dysfunctional domestic partnership. This loopy little romantic comedy/drama is an off-kilter romance for the 21st century. I sense this creative, dramatic, and sometimes humorous look at modern love will lead to great things for all involved. Go check it out.

Ben and Suzanne, A Reunion in 4 Parts screened at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival.

Ben and Suzanne, A Reunion in 4 parts (2024)

Directed and Written: Shaun Seneviratne

Starring: Sathya Sridharan, Anastasia Olowin, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Ben and Suzanne, A Reunion in 4 parts Image

"…will lead to great things for all involved."

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