We all hold onto a specific memory of someone close upon his/her death—a moment or moments special to us despite being uneventful to everyone else. Our relationship with the person defines what it is subconsciously. It could be a song, a movie, a vacation spent together, or perhaps even one spent apart. It can be a mutual hobby or sports team, exciting or mundane, but always unforgettable. To remember is to conjure a smile at its simplicity and its personal impact regardless of any overarching relevance to what came before or comes after. The best examples are those steeped in the everyday because they bring an image of that loved one now gone back from the dead to prove how they’re never too far away.
Directors Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter (otherwise known as Tiny Inventions) visualize this concept in Negative Space, their adaptation of a Ron Koertge poem. The story focuses on an adult male who narrates the context behind the “moment” he shares with his father. His ordinary process-based connection arrives from gazing at an open suitcase packed to perfection—a skill his dad taught him when he was a boy. We learn how the expert precision with which to fill that finite space became akin to the words “I love you,” the task itself a way to feel as though they were always together even when the act itself ensured they weren’t. The suitcase therefore signifies their bond. To have one is to take a piece of the other along.
Their style has a crude yet endearing stop-motion aesthetic; their sense of scale embellished to drive home ideas such visual eccentricity can in lieu of words. They turn a suitcase into the very world in which their characters live, cars unzipping zippers to open a memory while a little boy is swept away by a growing tide of unfolded clothing awaiting their place within the puzzle of life. And it all works towards an end that’s as profound as it appears trite—a deadpan joke with the weight of love turning it into a message of heartfelt admiration. A somber tone is found in the film’s steady delivery of exposition without emotion, the wound too fresh to acknowledge the truth and the memory pure enough to render that truth obsolete.