The uncertainty of an afterlife allows filmmakers and storytellers to play with the concept in any way they see fit. In the witty short film When This All Ends, director Jordan Sommerlad and writer Cory Stonebrook imagine the afterlife as a continuation of our earthbound existence, but this time as incorporeal beings restricted to a specific space.
Sisters Tess (Lizzy Miller) and Gia (Tiffany Trainer) have been dead for quite some time. They are now specters, restricted within the confines of their family’s vacation home in upstate New York. Nowadays, they watch guests as they come and go from the property. Nobody ever stays, except for the siblings, who have no choice but to stay for reasons not totally known to them or the viewer. Still, one could gather as much that this is an afterlife of simplicity and routine.
When This All Ends opens with Tess and Gia awaiting the arrival of their next guest. His name is James (Cory Stonebrook), a struggling writer who’s going through a break-up. He enters a seemingly quiet and private vacation home. Unbeknownst to him, there are two boisterous and loquacious ghosts observing him. Tess is excited about his presence, praising his low-key attractiveness and cooking skills. Gia is much less impressed, making snarky comments about his writing abilities and watching habits.
“…specters restricted within the confines of their family’s vacation home…”
As this drama spans just fifteen minutes, the actors waste no time bringing their characters to life. Lizzy Miller and Tiffany Trainer are a delightful and magnetic duo with clashing personalities and perspectives, making for some uniquely emotional, existential musings. Tess wears a formal dress and maintains an upbeat spirit, whereas Gia wears a tattered shirt and has a cynical attitude. Their back-and-forth is often comedic while containing vivid hints of vulnerability. For instance, Gia pokes fun at Tess for attaching herself to every guest who stays at the vacation home knowing they must eventually leave.
With a screenplay that balances dry humor and existential drama, When This All Ends is a sweet, albeit narratively compressed, examination of regret, yearning, and acceptance. The movie puts Tess and Gia at the forefront as they grapple with not being able to live the life they wanted when they were alive. They look at James, who’s suffering from writer’s block and a bad break-up, and they think it’s foolish of him to believe that things won’t get better. Unlike them, he’s free to explore every opportunity life has to offer.
The screenplay places the characters in a secluded, lived-in house setting. The cinematography exercises steady shots to nicely establish every character’s position in a room while concomitantly capturing their nonverbal reactions to the ghostly antics. Meanwhile, through seamless editing, Sommerlad regularly switches between James’ perspective and the sisters’ to bring about some effective humor.
All in all, When This All Ends is a charming short film about acknowledging where you are in life (or the afterlife) while still hoping for more.
"…the actors waste no time bringing their characters to life."
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