What is the packet that George (Timothy J. Cox) gives Tom (Joshua Michael Payne) in Tan See Yun‘s short film Transience? This question is running through my mind in desperate need of an answer because without one the whole proves too esoteric to reconcile. We know these two men are a couple—the former responsible, caring, and career-oriented with the latter younger, independent, and perhaps resentful—but we don’t know why they’ve drifted or why/if they should reignite their waning passion. There are of course obvious motivations whether it’s nondescript universal frustrations pulling them apart or an underlying love shared to wake them up to what truly matters and what doesn’t, but the impetus of Tom looking at himself in the proverbial mirror is that packet.
Are they adoption papers? Divorce papers? A new lease for their apartment? I’m probably obsessing way too much, but I can’t just go along for the ride without knowing. The silent black and white aesthetic forces me to look closer and witness dialogue through action and what I saw clearest was Tom rejecting the idea of reading the packet and George’s joy when seeing it had been opened and perused. I lean towards my first inclination of adoption because that step is powerful enough to earn the film’s conclusion. To add another human to their home means Tom has accepted what adulthood asks of him. Seeing a lonely old man in the park who resembles George provides the epiphany of a future he hopes to avoid.
Using a kid as a Band-Aid is hardly responsible, but Yun and the actors do a nice job to infer upon this couple’s history and the decision’s importance as one deliberated for a lengthy period of time. Tom’s juvenility is explained as fear of what being a parent means and George’s elation is cemented as relief towards an ongoing struggle rather than a too-quickly resolved lover’s spat. To a point I enjoy that I must give this packet life in order to understand the movie and that Yun leaves things open-ended for me to do so. But I wonder if I’m forcing importance onto a throwaway prop simply to appreciate the film more than I should. Either way, it resonates successfully enough for me to care about asking.