REVIEW: Us Again [2021]

Rating: 8 out of 10.
  • Rating: G | Runtime: 7 minutes
    Release Date: March 5th, 2021 (USA)
    Studio: Walt Disney Animation Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
    Director(s): Zach Parrish
    Writer(s): Zach Parrish

The jazzy notes of Pinar Toprak‘s score act as a living soundtrack to the world of Zach Parrish‘s short film Us Again with everyone inside it dancing as though they are characters in a musical. The unbridled energy and excitement are infectious with smiles from ear to ear on everyone’s faces until the camera moves into an apartment housing a grumpy old man in a recliner who can’t even be bothered to stand-up when slamming his window shut to prevent the notes outside from reaching his ears. We see from the photos on his wall that he wasn’t always so disgruntled. In fact, he probably would have been the first person out there dancing a few decades ago. The memory of those happier times saddens his present state.

Not his wife, though. She never lost that spark and knows trying to rekindle his won’t be easy. So she opens the window to coax him up and the door to beckon him out. But she can’t force him to walk through it and become his former self instead of wallowing in the self-pity of pretending he isn’t. That’s on him and him alone. And if her leaving to enjoy the night without him isn’t enough to light a fire, what is? Parrish will have to therefore add some magic to the scene courtesy of a rainstorm that transforms this aging gentleman into the young man we saw in those photographs. His knees start bending, his arms start swinging, and he can’t wait to get back out there.

It’s such a simple concept that visualizes the psychological impact of identity to manifest this beautiful evening of rejuvenation before this character is forced to confront what it is that has him so down. He’s still himself and his love is still by his side, so what is there to worry about? That his dance moves are slower? That he can’t continue on as long as he once could? At a certain point we must recognize our physical limitations are nothing more than evidence of a life lived that cannot be forgotten rather than one to lament. Because it’s not about what other people see when you go out there and have fun. It’s about how you feel. You dance and live for yourselves together.

That such a revelation must happen in rain only allows Parrish to highlight how far animation has come with lighting effects and reflections. To think about how realistic The Blue Umbrella looked in 2013 and find Us Again doing it better is kind of mind-blowing. Despite how good things look and sound (Toprak’s music is fantastic), however, the real gut-punch of emotion comes when those clouds drift and threaten to take the magic away. She’s ready to let it so he can acknowledge that youth isn’t necessary for happiness while he’s desperate to hold on just a little bit longer. It’s sad to watch him cling to the past while the present moves further away. But it’s inspiring to watch him realize the person he was still remained.

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