“What do you suggest we do?”
There’s a moment at the beginning of Mikael Ayele and Catherine Ames‘ short film Repair Us when Nicole (Ames) is joking around with her boyfriend Brandan (Ayele) about what they can do to spice up their stagnant relationship and rekindle a waning flame. She goes through a list of the usual suspects as far as role-playing is concerned—nurse, schoolgirl, nun—before eventually laughing off a suggestion of doubling herself for a menage a trois. It’s a deft bit of reaction shot cutting from his wry smile at the first three options to her jovial demeanor turning wide-eyed in slight surprise at the last. The French phrase every warm-blooded male understands sparked something in Brandan off-screen and while it initially takes Nicole off-guard, you can’t help noticing her own grin before the frame goes dark.
Abstractly told in flashback—a fact made more obvious on second viewing—we’re introduced to Brandan in a state of emotional turmoil walking the streets of Paris to and from unknown locations. Tears well in his eyes as his demeanor fights back a breakdown we cannot begin to extrapolate until after we’re transported to the aforementioned conversation of sexual exploration. From here we witness each one’s preparations leading towards their moment of truth: his lustful excitement on the train ride home, her make-up routine steadying nerves in advance of a night unlike any either has experienced. Before watching them enter the seedy apartment complex housing the hired third-wheel of pleasure recommended by lecherous friend Vincent, however, another brief interlude of Brandan’s silent pain in the moonlight appears.
We’re forced to relive his unrest, intently watching as a hand enters the frame atop his shoulder to show he’s not walking alone. We experience quick cuts of a man who’s not Brandan caressing the body of a semi-naked woman—glimpses of carnal desire now making our lead anxious when the stockinged legs of a stranger on the subway brought hunger moments earlier. It’s through this juxtaposition that Ayele and Ames ask us to figure out what changed. What could have occurred between these lovers behind closed doors with their professional companion? What could have happened that the girl who trepidatiously requested the creation of a “safe word” is calmly smoking a cigarette afterwards while the boy who was chomping at the bit is rendered pale as though he’s awoken from a nightmare?
The answer of course lies in what happens within the apartment complex—actions I’ll try not to spoil despite them being crucial to really talking in-depth about the ten-minute short Ayele and Ames have crafted. I’ll just say that love is a complicated creature and not something to take lightly. Couples like Brandan and Nicole believe they are strong enough to evolve their mutual sexual landscape and yet never ask the truly important questions of themselves. It’s one thing to confront your significant other about his/her desires, but it’s another to willfully live with the potential ramifications of such acts on your own psyche. You may selfishly want the added flavor and think your partner will merely be in the room, never fully comprehending the reality that they may want it too.
Repair Us doesn’t solely focus on the communal experience of this situation, however. It splits it apart to show how far the couple will go to satisfy cravings they knew they had (Brandan) and didn’t (Nicole). They travel outside their comfort zone for sex believing the experience will be shared, but the formula changes exponentially once things don’t quite turn out as anticipated. In this regard, the act itself becomes inconsequential because the unknown always conjures fantasies much worse than reality could. And as soon as one takes the first step towards such uncharted territory, returning to normalcy is impossible. Brandan’s lust therefore compromises Nicole’s love and vice versa; her allowing him to do so ultimately rendered moot after realizing he never reciprocated the permission for her to do the same.
Watch Repair Us for yourself on Vimeo.