The best student films are the ones that can execute a clever premise without growing obvious and stale. “Happily Ever After,” a short by a group at UCLA Extension, sneaks up on the viewer with its timeline plot and unexpected emotional impact. By way of a split-screen, that timeless student film technique, we follow two characters, one of whom is traveling backwards from an uncertain future event, and another who is moving forward. Not until these two travelers reach the same point in time do we understand their connection to each other and the dark clouds on the horizon for both of them.
Writer/director Lidia Sheinin understands that the most memorable details are often the most subtle. The unnamed girl (Emily Maya Mills) pours wine and sulks around her house, while the guy (Kevin J. Kelly) packs for a trip. The split-screen shots are always framed parallel to each other so that the eyes don’t have to work too much to understand what’s happening in either of them. The camera never spends too much time on one image, allowing everything just enough time to sink in, and while I may have groaned at the first sight of the split-screen, Sheinin ends up earning it.
The memo from distributors Scared Mouse Productions claims that the film was shot in just one weekend. I won’t spoil the plot, but I’m guessing that must have been a pensive weekend indeed.