By Charles Gray (@charlesjgray | YouTube)
Two lovers are laying in bed. A single shot of them alluding to a sexual act before the title card. The camera doesn’t pan or blend into the next angle. There is no saxophone music. It’s raw and subtle, yet charged with moxie. What’s important to know in this scene is that you understand the complex love dynamic of this Asian-American couple, played beautifully by Grace Su and Anthony Ma. In the glint of an eye, or in the tone of a playful gesture, it’s clear that these two have been in love for quite some time. This hyper-realism on-screen attest the experimental documentary-esque approach of Director Tanuj Chopra.
The movie takes place indoors during a weekend or on consecutive sick days. They are young, naive, and in love. You see them have sex, order food, take a shit, clean each other in the shower, contemplate through the window, ask each other questions, like “who’s that on your phone?”, fight, dance, cry, and make home videos of each other. It’s everything you know about yourself and the comfort you seek on days where nothing else matters outside the four walls that enclose you and your person.
There isn’t much of an arc or overbearing theme that Chopra wants to shove down your throat. Instead he invites you in on this slice of life with these two characters, unlike you’ve ever seen before played out in cinema. He makes you feel like you found secret camera footage on your roommates laptop of him and his girlfriend.
There are loose elements and nods to filmmakers who make movies in this very same vein. Filmmakers like John Cassavetes and Richard Linklater come to mind. Conversation don’t always serve the purpose of forced conflict between two opposing wants that lead you into act three. Instead you get real time depictions of a young Asian couple trying to find who they are and survive the mundane of attachment. They try and make sense of this world through their connection and dissection of one another while finding resolution in the poor decisions they make, which are born out of the insecurity and flaws they possess. There is solid LOL humor stuffed in the back-pocket of this drama love story which was all brilliantly acted through improv by actors Su and Ma.
I highly recommend watching this film. I saw Staycation on a whim at the Downtown Independent as part of the 2019 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival lineup when I was about to go home after a day full of movies. I’m glad I stayed for Staycation.
WINNER, GRAND JURY PRIZE – LA MUSE FICTION
LOS ANGELES FILM FESTIVAL
For updates on the film and how to catch a future screening, visit chopsfilms.com/staycation.