I’d feel weird reading someone else’s mail. So I’m more than a little uncomfortable writing a critical review of “The Love Letter,” the newest short film by producers Fitz Cahall and Bryan Smith. Premiering today online it’s an intimate story of togetherness in the pursuit of adventure as Fitz and his wife Becca make their way along 300 miles of rugged trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Though beautiful in its imagery and poetic narration the film is hard to watch due to its sheer lack of conflict.
Maybe it’s a guy thing. Girls, you might feel differently. But public displays of affection make casual observers cringe and look away, to start at least in embarrassment for having seen something meant only for two. But pitch a married couple into a screaming argument and there’s a show you’ll want to watch. Sad but true these spectacles of anger and frustration are what drive the storyline. Even in a comedy viewers are compelled to watch, rapt waiting for the quarrel to somehow be resolved. Root for a happy ending if you want, but somewhere in the back of your mind at some point you have to wonder if they might kill each other.
Fitz and Becca are sweet together and despite their busy professional lives we can see in the film that their relationship is strong and unwavering. It’s beautiful to watch. But never do we get a clear understanding of how everyday life is pulling them apart or how this trip might heal the rift between them. It’s just not there. Even in a short film the arch of its story needs to sow at least a few seeds of discontent. But in The Love Letter even the weather seems to cooperate. Clear mountain streams, blue skies and companionable rock climbing are fun to watch. But is it storytelling? At what point do we go from compelling adventure story to vacation slideshow?
It’s obvious that Fitz struggles against his obligations to answer his cell phone or respond to demanding emails. I get that. He spends his time in town climbing concrete walls and doesn’t spend enough quality time in the outdoors he loves. And maybe that’s what’s coming between him and Becca, threatening their marriage. Now there’s conflict! But this is a monster we meet only in the opening frames and don’t see again until the end when Fitz refuses the call from “conformity.” Of course he does! As one of the hardest working independent filmmakers in adventure media today that’s a call he’d more than likely let ring through to voicemail.
All of this is not say The Love Letter is not worth watching. The opinions of this review not withstanding the camera work and writing are simply captivating. It’s 11minutes 37 seconds that will warm even a synical heart like mine. Definitely click to download and enjoy the show. http://www.outdoorresearch.com/site/theloveletter.html
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