Relationships don’t always have happy, magical endings.
Marnie Salvani, a graduate directing student, said she hopes to show the reality of relationships and break free from Hollywood’s glamorized portrayals of romance in her short film “Reunion,” a 10-minute film she shot over the weekend for a class project. Salvani said “Reunion” is a romantic comedy, but the two lead characters’ envisioned relationship doesn’t live up to their expectations, which distinguishes the film from others in the genre.
The film will play at the James Bridges Theater near the end of spring quarter, and audience members will be able to critique the film. From there, Salvani will incorporate the feedback into her editing and release a new version of the film at a later date.
The film features characters Mara, played by UCLA alumna Kelsey Ritter, and Noah, played by UC Irvine student Brent Courtney, who reconnect at their 10-year high school reunion. Mara regrets not acting on her feelings for Noah in high school and hopes to start a romance with him when they meet again.
Ritter and Courtney filmed the scene in which they reconnect on Saturday. Courtney and Ritter stood mere inches apart from each other on taped X’s on the floor of a dim classroom as the crew shot the film. The cameraman focused on the two characters’ shoes to symbolize their closeness while Salvani directed multiple takes of each scene, incorporating slight alterations in each, such as changes in the direction of Ritter’s toes.
In another scene, Mara and Noah share a kiss after expressing the attraction they both felt in high school. However, the characters soon realize there isn’t chemistry between them, and back away from each other as the attraction fades.
“It doesn’t turn out the way she expects, they don’t have a spark,” Salvani said. “(Mara) built this up in her head, but it’s not going to live up to her imagination.”
Jessica Klearman, Salvani’s assistant director and a graduate directing student, said “Reunion” emulates many elements of Hollywood dramas and romantic comedies, such as focusing on the physical closeness of the characters. Klearman said the film builds up the attraction between them and leads the audience to believe they will end up together, but the two eventually decide to remain friends.
Salvani found inspiration for “Reunion” from a creative nonfiction piece she wrote during her third year of college. The story was based on someone she liked in high school. However, there was always uncertainty between the two about the feelings being mutual, so they never progressed in their relationship.
“(Mara and Noah) don’t end up getting together at the end. A romantic relationship isn’t the end-all, be-all for everybody,” Salvani said. “It’s relatable. … Someone starts a relationship with someone they thought they really liked but then they realized they’re not the right person.”
Klearman added romantic comedies promote the idea that relationships always work out in the end.
“‘Reunion’ is unique because most (romantic comedies) have a heavy focus on finding Mr. Right and the perfect guy, (which) dismisses all of the other options as you had before as Mr. Wrong,” Klearman said.
Salvani said she hopes “Reunion” helps audiences reflect on their own unfulfilled or imperfect romances.
“I personally think romance in film and television is very glamorized, especially the romantic-comedy genre, and I personally feel like it’s kind of selling lies, like it’s gonna be happily ever after, but that’s not reality for most people,” Salvani said. “There are relationships that just don’t work out and those need to also be filmed.”