Canadian director Mark Slutsky makes a lot happen in his eight minute short Never Happened.
A man and his pregnant wife say goodbye for the weekend as he’s off on a business trip with a (female) colleague.
The short shifts back and forth between the events of the weekend and the man’s retelling of the events to his wife. The truth is he and his colleague hooked up. At home, he tells his wife they didn’t even go out for a beer. Although maybe infidelity is a decent surprise for a plot, it isn’t what makes this short hold my interest, it’s the way the man and his colleague handle the infidelity. It’s like it’s nothing. Okay, during their hookup you expect them to have a good time, but afterwards, when they’re in bed, separated, you expect something to come over them (a shadow across their face, a look in their eyes) but nothing ever comes. It’s chit-chat. They talk about how the colleague met the man’s wife at a work event once and really thinks she’s nice. She also points out that her boyfriend (so she’s got someone back home too?) might propose, and if he does she’s going to say yes. The man congratulates her without an ounce of jealousy.
Then Slutsky cuts back to the man at home with his wife. The more he explains how he and the colleague didn’t get up to anything, the more despicable he becomes. He’s able to look his other half in the eye, feel her belly bump, and admit nothing. It makes you wonder if he’s a sociopath; how could he do some of this? Any of it?
The hint is in the film’s genre classification: sci-fi. It’s the kind of sci-fi genre that takes place maybe only five or ten years into the future, closer to something like Her than to Futurama.
All of the cinematography is sleek, yet doesn’t take attention away from the story, and the acting is solid, especially in the latter half of the film. Aaron Abrams, the father in Closet Monster, plays the man. Mia Kirshner (The L Word, 24) plays the colleague in a fascinating way, able to pack a lot of emotion into a gaze hidden behind an drained martini glass. My only issue is with the third character, the wife, and it’s not an acting problem it’s a writing problem. She’s given every stock Neglected Wife line in the book. “If I didn’t know better I’d think you fooling around behind my back…” She says playfully. This takes on another meaning thanks to the point of the story, but even if you call it satire, it’s still really used to the same effect — you don’t get to have your cake and eat it too.
Overall, for eight minutes, this is more than worth watching, and it makes you wonder why Abrams and Kirshner aren’t more famous. I wish I didn’t have to look them up online to get their names right. They deserve more. Maybe more will come via Slutsky.
See Danny’s perspective on the film here.