“I’m waiting for you”
Self-destruction is hardly a new concept. It’s simply more accessible now. Before the internet you had to feed your addictive nature in the physical world with monetary compensation rather than moral. Now, however, anything you want is a button push away. Social media and numerous applications meant to connect us in ways we never dreamed aren’t always altruistic and those using them are hardly one hundred percent above board. You can pretend you’re someone you’re not before you even meet someone new. You can construct a brand new identity to escape the one you feel has trapped you against a wall with no mode of release. For Megan (Mandy Evans) it’s Tinder, an outlet to become what she doesn’t feel she can at home: sexy, adventurous, and unrestrained.
This character’s actions throughout Pickup (directed by Jeremiah Kipp and written by Jessica Blank) aren’t necessarily a cry for help as much as a personal declaration of psychological imprisonment. Some of us believe we can simply stay quiet and hope things turn around rather than confront those we love and who love us back to execute healthy change for the future. Megan’s husband Ben (Jim True-Frost) is deluded in the fact that everything is okay. He believes his wife enjoys her days as a stay-at-home mother biding time alone, her sole companion before his return from work proving to be their young son Liam (Griffin Robert Faulkner). His seemingly benign narcissism allowing every question asked to circle back to him ultimately shields the obvious pain she projects.
But she is in pain. She’s desperate for companionship, human touch. So she meets random men for sexual encounters, sprinkling in up to four meet-ups a day between trips to Target. Her response to each ding of her phone is Pavlovian, her desire to leave the monotony of Megan the married mother of one overtakes any ability to think a quick tryst could aversely effect the world around her. It’s a tough series of events to watch because each ends in her expression of sadness. I wouldn’t say guilt or regret—more a numbness in the realization that every new experience leaves her exactly where she was before. Sex has transformed from a coveted release into a constant reminder of her loneliness. What she receives no longer helps.
Humanity’s lost its ability to communicate. Technology makes our world smaller, but it also pushes those closest further away. We don’t need a steady dose of physical interaction when we have photo streams. We don’t need to remind ourselves about what matters at home because we can seek to acquire it elsewhere. I think in some respects Pickup may place too much shame onto Megan as the “wrongdoer”—her latest engagement making it so her son is left at school without a ride. But maybe it actually delivers the idea that things will never change. I wanted her to blow up on Ben and scream everything she’s feeling. Instead he provides a scolding look of disapproval and she retreats. Perhaps they’re broken beyond repair. Perhaps we all are.
The short is beautifully shot as all of Kipp’s productions are with expressive, in-close, and oftentimes artfully obstructed compositions allowing emotion to tell its story. Evans is great in the lead role, her character lost on a downward spiral she cannot disembark from. We know she loves her husband and son and know she cannot bridge her two selves and retain what she loves about them. To an extent they don’t even play a role here because she’s willing to leave them behind until her diversions are complete. Megan has lost herself until potential tragedy is all that can shake her back awake. What Blank and Kipp do that truly resonates is show how being awoken isn’t a solution. Without real change, relapse is but a blink away.