Alison is a contemplative short film that explores the nature of uneven relationships with effective writing and talented performances.
Our understanding of love is wild and unfinished; there’s still so many complex factors which elude us. We want our relationships to be healthy but often times they end up being reflections of our unacknowledged flaws. They are fragile; we are fragile. These issues and more are the subjects of director David Lester’s Alison, which focuses on a relationship that’s fraying at the edges. Careful but sharp at the same time, Alison brings to mind a lot of other films dealing with love while maintaining its own unique flavor. This is in part because of the script, written by Jessica Rose, and also because of the actors. Both elements come together in harmony for a fully developed film.
Alison (played by Jessica Rose) and her boyfriend, Jason (played by Kristopher Turner), are walking home from a night of drinking. While Jason is mostly sober, Alison is not and ends up peeing in the street while Jason looks incredulous. This first scene, an important part of any film, encompasses their relationship perfectly. Jason is the sensible one and Alison, drunk, is wayward, in need of someone to help her. The roles might seem reductive if not for the care that goes into the scene. Both Rose and Turner engender feelings of protection; we want them to be okay.
The two travel home as Alison, too inebriated to walk, rests in Jason’s arms. He takes her inside where she refuses to lie down, eats the contents of their fridge and finally ends up kneeling before the toilet puking up everything she ate. Jason sits over her, protective. We can’t help but wonder what exactly he’s protecting her from. Perhaps he feels he needs to protect her from herself.
After wrestling her out of her clothes, Jason and Alison sit in the bathtub together, staring each other down. Alison, holding herself close, tells Jason that he doesn’t love her. Even as Jason protests, she cries about what a fuck up she is. The writing in this scene is so delicate, so thin that you could almost believe that the situation is real. Rose does a phenomenal job creating characters who are humanistic and easy to connect to. She’s also caused the theme of fragile relationships to resurface as Jason and Alison, naked, confront the tenuous threads holding their romance together.
As they prepare to go to bed, Alison asks Jason to sing her a song. Turner’s performance here is his strongest of the film. Voice wavering but still coming through, the little song he sings permeates the miasma of Jason’s care-taking instincts to reveal that, beneath everything, he’s conflicted. It obvious he loves Alison but how long can love sustain a relationship where one party is always cleaning up after the other? Alison asks the difficult questions but there are no answers. There’s only the lilting sound of Turner’s voice singing a difficult lullaby to Alison as she falls asleep.
The final scenes of Alison are simple but emotionally impactful. They echo with the feeling of mystery and to watch them feels almost voyeuristic. It feels like we shouldn’t be watching what’s going on. Yet we must watch; we have to see the crumbling of Jason’s strength as a care-taker in order to understand the toll the relationship takes on him. But we also need to see Alison comforting him so that we might glimpse some hope for their future as a couple. It isn’t a grim note to end on. It’s a hopeful one.
Alison was released in 2016 and runs 12 minutes long. The film was an official selection at Calgary International Film Festival, NSI International Film Festival, Victoria International Film Festival and Lakeshore International Short Film Festival. It was also a Vimeo Staff Pick.