At some point when a couple has been dating for a certain amount of time, both partners must decide whether or not to take things to the next level and enter into a committed relationship. Taking that next step gives both partners a sense of excitement and happiness, as they look forward to their life journey together. As the relationship continues, however, life is not always fun and games as each partner eventually reveals the not-so-good side of his or her personality. As a result, bad habits that were once accepted in the beginning become annoying and difficult behaviours that were at first shrugged-off become a worry. After building a life together, is it worth ending a long-term relationship when bad behaviours get to the point of serious intolerability?
The 13-minute dramatic short film Alison (2016) sets out to answer that question as it looks at one couple’s troubling and emotional evening. Written and produced by Jessica Rose and directed by David Lester, Alison stars Jessica Rose as Alison and Kristopher Turner (Saving Hope, This Life) as Jay. Alison and Jay are heading home from an evening out. With Alison under the influence, Jay does his utmost best to get her inside the house and put her to bed. Things don’t go so smoothly for Jay, as Alison’s behaviour becomes hard to manage. Through it all, Jay keeps his cool until he reaches a breaking point. For more on Alison and Jay’s eventful night together, watch the film below:
Warning: mature content – viewer discretion is advised.
Short Film Fan recently got in touch with Jessica to learn more about Alison, including the difficulties faced by the crew in filming the street scene and whether or not the short was a commentary about addiction and mental health issues faced by couples in long-term relationships.
Short Film Fan: Who or what influenced you to make Alison?
Jessica Rose: David Lester (the director) and I have been together for eleven years, so long term relationships are something I think we understand very well. The film shows a kind of intimacy specific to long term relationships that we hadn’t seen portrayed on screen before in a way that felt authentic to us. When you live with someone you get to see all sides of them that the general public isn’t privy to: all the wonderful cute lovely things you fell in love with and, inevitably, all the baggage that reveals itself when you really trust each other or start to test each other. Sometimes it’s working at it and getting through the hard stuff that makes your love even deeper, but it can be hard to see that when you’re in the thick of it. Also, speaking to the character of Alison specifically, I was going through a challenging time personally and I was probably channeling some of those feelings when creating her.
SFF: What challenges did you face when it was time to film the tinkle scene in the street?
JR: Time! We shot the whole film in one day, and the pee scene was the last thing on the schedule. It was nearly 2 a.m. and getting very cold, all of us had worked hard all day and were exhausted, and we needed to wrap. We used a “pee rig”, so there were definitely some technical adjustments we had to make to figure it out. David operated the rig, which was big syringe attached to a tube sewn into the pants, and on the first take he put too much pressure into the pump and it came out like a waterfall. It took some practice to get it to look natural. Luckily it was the middle of the night so there weren’t too many people walking by ready to call the cops.
SFF: Was it a mental health or addiction issue that was behind Alison’s dysfunctional behaviour?
JR: We actually don’t want to say too much about what we intended because it’s been fascinating to learn how people interpret it and project their own relationship experiences onto the film. That being said, I didn’t intend it to be an addiction issue when I initially wrote it. I actually think Alison is a pretty normal girl, and that the situation reflected in the film is more common between young couples than people tend to admit. Relationships have the potential to be very beautiful things, but they do challenge us and teach us a great deal about ourselves. The process can be deeply rewarding, but it’s not necessarily smooth sailing.
SFF: Some people would say that what we witnessed in Jay was relationship co-dependency. Is the film an attempt to bring the issue of codependency out into the open for public discussion?
JR: I wouldn’t say it was a deliberate attempt because I didn’t have that kind of agenda when writing it, but it’s absolutely a conversation in the film and something I think about in my own life. Having been in a relationship for eleven years, David and I really grew up together in our twenties, and when you’re with someone for an extended period of time, unconsciously your needs start to bleed together and you end up making compromises or demands on each other that you don’t even realize you’re making. Developing true independence and self-sufficiency within the relationship was something we had to work extremely hard on. That being said, I wrote the ending the way it is because I really want to make the audience question whether Alison behaves this way all the time or if this is a more isolated event. In healthy relationships, even if both people work hard to be emotionally responsible for themselves, inevitably there are times where you take turns caring for one another. I like that Alison shows up for Jay the next day, and we finally get to see this other side to her that he really loves.
SFF: Alison was named a Vimeo Staff Pick awhile back. What was it like for you and your team when you got the news?
JR: So exciting! Putting it online was a lot of hard work, but seeing it take off and find an audience was the most gratifying, rewarding thing. I was really happy about the traction it was getting online even before we had the Vimeo news — we were amazed at how many people started to share it over social media. It’s vulnerable to put such a personal story on the Internet and it’s really difficult to give a film life online. We had no idea what the response would be, so ultimately the whole experience ended up being so moving to us. I was home alone in my pajamas when I got the Staff Pick e-mail and kind of just burst into tears (in a good way). David was working, so I called him with the news and we both kind of freaked out.
SFF: What lesson or lessons would you like the audience to take away from Alison?
JR: Honestly, I hope that if there are any lessons to be taken from the film that they are very unique to the person watching it. Our favourite thing about film is how it gets people talking, so what we love most is when people start to have dialogue about it after and reflect on what they’ve seen and how it connects to their own life. We’ve had people write to us and share the different ways they relate to the film or how it’s changed their perspective on their past or current relationships, and that part is really the most gratifying.
Short Film Fan Review:
Alison was an emotional and heartfelt story about staying dedicated to your mate. While it is easy to run from a relationship at the first sign of trouble, Alison shows us that true love for a partner includes accepting the bad with the good. The quick scene change from “oh yeah, peanut butter” to vomiting was funny, but you still feel for Alison’s suffering; especially when she broke down in tears in the tub. Jay’s calmness when confronting and coping with Alison’s behaviour showed an amazing strength of character, while his break down reminds us all that a person’s strength can only last for so long. If the film went on for a few minutes longer, perhaps Jay could have revealed his true thoughts, feelings and concerns about Alison and how it was affecting his place in the relationship.
Overall, Alison is an extremely well-written and well-acted serious film that would resonate with couples young or old; married or still in the dating phase. Singles could also benefit from watching Alison, as it would be a great teaching tool on how to manage the relationship stresses and challenges. As Jessica mentioned, Alison has the ability to get people thinking and talking about their own relationship experiences. After watching the film above, how did it affect the way you see relationships past and present? Have you been in a similar situation like Jay was? Have you walked in Alison’s shoes at one point? Let Jessica know how Alison moved you. You can send her a comment at the bottom of the film’s website at https://www.alisonshortfilm.com/ or you can Tweet her at @thejessrose