“Let’s keep going”
Writer/director Zak Forsman appears as though he can do no wrong when it comes to emotional heartbreak and the romantic connections we all form in our lives. Unlike his first short I Fucking Hate You’s glimpse into the impossibility of remaining close with one another post break-up, however, the six-minute Model/Photographer seeks to portray the inherent confusion of trying just that. While some are able to carefully adhere to a foreign delineation of boundaries—removing the romance to otherwise retain what was platonically—not everyone has the strength, desire, or some might say masochism to stomach it.
We learn exactly this from a late night, rooftop photoshoot set against the lights of a bustling urban city below. Will (John T. Woods) arrives with his camera and a knock at the door to which Nicolette (Mary Elise Hayden) appears wearing a bittersweet happiness upon her face. The casual mention of his jacket elicits a smile from him as though she’s remembering the good times its presence conjures when the reality proves anything but through a simple exchange of meaningful glances lasting mere seconds. While he so obviously still has feelings for her, Nicolette’s admittance of searching for the coat only to be able to send it back cements her lack of reciprocation.
These subtleties are what make Forsman’s work so universally relevant. Each of his characters is at once lovingly accessible and the last thing we want to see, their pained rejections and nakedly open emotions onscreen also existing deep within ourselves. The romance of the night, the inevitable sexual charge of a photographer capturing his subject’s essence, the beauty of a model playing to the camera and not its operator—they all compose a laundry list of details that can’t help but instill mixed signals and hopeful fantasies of a rekindled embrace. Will feels the electricity as though it is directed to him alone and the fact he’s only serving as the conduit bringing it to everyone else makes it all the more devastating.
Lyrically composed with bookends of individual anticipation and ultimate regret at the beginning and end respectively, the middle’s reunion of love unspoken is implicitly understood. Woods and Hayden’s chemistry is alive, but just as in real life appearances can be deceiving. His intimate whisper and soft kiss paired with her gentler turning away show love’s powerful hold and the strength necessary to ignore desire rather than give into false hope. Relationships end for a reason and no matter how comfortable and safe a return to one another’s arms feels—more often than not it’s just a prolonging of the inevitable.
This is the beautiful sorrow we catch in Model/Photographer. The painful goodbye after believing complicated feelings had been reconciled and mutually evaporated. Hayden’s Nicolette emits an apologetically firm stance as Woods’ Will embarrassedly seeks a path for retreat from the miscalculation of his heart. It’s an emotionally shattering situation that leaves us ignorant to why they’ve grown apart as well as whether the future holds any chance of the friendship they thought remained. But even though the details aren’t explained doesn’t mean we can’t easily infer both because it only takes one look to understand the love they shared and one more to see its current absence.