A shy woman snaps photos of people on the subway, unbeknownst to her subjects. She returns home and uses the photos to create a collage of strangers; artwork hidden from sight in her room. A musician lives the “starving artist” lifestyle, stealing from his woman and mostly just floating through life. When the shy woman’s sister (mother? roommate? it isn’t clear the relationship between the two women) throws out the photo collage, the musician finds it and re-purposes it for his own artistic vision.
Jonathan Hardy’s short film The Upside of Dysfunction tells the parallel tales of a couple artists whose lives intersect, eventually to each other’s benefit. It is slowly paced, with subtle performances, and you’re never quite sure where it’s going. It is also very sparse on explanation of who the characters are (not many names are uttered in the film to help you out) or how they relate to each other (except via context clues), so the audience isn’t spoonfed anything, though the story is easy to follow regardless.
What the film shows is a redemption for one artist, who uses the art to springboard his own endeavors, and the confident birth of another, as the shy woman sees the value in her creation, and talents, only after she has lost her artwork to the musician. In that way, we have a delicate, though positive, study of the value of art and the artists that create it. While the film definitely has a narrative arc, it feels more like sitting in on a few people’s lives than it does a short film.
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