The Deja Vuers (Short)
Chris Esper does well with stories about characters in unusual situations. It was the case with his last short film, the acclaimed “Please Punish Me,” and it is true with his latest film. Actually, all of his films (including “Still Life,” “Always a Reason” and “Steak Knives”) are about that type of unusual situation. The central tenant of Esper’s storytelling prowess is to engage the audience while finding unique ways to grab them in a short amount of time. If you read his book, The Filmmaker’s Journey, or listen to him on the interview we conducted before Thanksgiving last year, you will find a smart filmmaker who enjoys challenging himself and honing his craft. “The Deja Vuers,” like “Please Punish Me” and “Still Life,” feels like an attempt to push himself further as a storyteller, and in the process, tell a quirky, engaging personal tale. In many ways, this might be my favorite film of his, although “Please Punish Me” still lingers long in my memory.
Jason K. Allen’s script is a simple piece of serendipitous meeting, as Chuck (Kris Salvi) walks up to a woman he sees on a park bench. She looks exactly like a woman he dreamt about the night before. In the dream, she was eating fruit cocktail; in real life, she packed it today even though she normally doesn’t eat it. The woman, Morgan (Christie Devine), didn’t quite dream in the same way, but there’s plenty of coincidences that makes her curious, although they both are quick to dismiss each other as romantic prospects, even though both had fights with their significant others last night. That’s when things really get weird, and fate seems to have some very specific ideas for them both.
“The Deja Vuers” is, in its most basic terms, an example of how everything happens for a reason. These two people may not be destined for each other, but they are destined to meet, and that meeting leads to potentially better things for both. The soundtrack for the film sets a tone that hints at comedic possibilities when we hear it at the start, but when it is reprised at the end, it has a different effect on us, but still underlines the unique nature of the film and its story. As a filmmaker, Esper knows what to show and what not to, and the best framing for things as simple as a Tupperware bowl of fruit cocktail on a park bench…or when a man interrupts a woman’s quiet, lonely lunch. At 8 minutes, we get everything we need from the film, and yet, like any good story, you feel like you’d like to see it continue, if only to see whether Chuck and Morgan’s lives cross again, and what possibilities would exist. Even if it doesn’t, we feel blessed to be included in such an important moment for these two characters. That’s the mark of what a good film can do. This film, however, is better than good, and we get more than we asked for with it, which is perfectly acceptable by me.