TEXTUAL RELATIONSHIP

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Director: Syd Heather | Writer (s): Tom Glover (play),  Syd Heather (adapted) | Producer(s):Dan Eycott, Syd Heather | Cast: Sarah Langrish-Smith and David Frias-Robles

If you’re 25 and over, single or in a relationship and living in ‘the city’ – chances are that you, or someone you know, has done the online dating thing. More now than ever it’s risen to epidemic proportions, do people even know how to chat each other up -in real life IRL anymore? Well according to the newest short adapted from the play by Tom Glover – they don’t, and there are consequences to our actions, albeit laughable ones…

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We open up on two young attractive singletons, running through their profiles like a personal statement for a job interview personal. They go by vapid monikers like DarkDemon92 and UniqueTalent_33… it’s funny, if not uncomfortably familiar. These are people we’ve surely all crossed, or if you’re lucky enough (like me) not have made jump into the online dating pool, you definitely know they exist. 

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Inevitably things start to heat up… online (of course), but after a suitable amount of  what I can only describe as… “courting” behind screens, they decide to meet; but as awkward as it can be to meet someone in person, meeting someone you’ve only spoken to online and in person, can be a whole other level of awkward.

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A relationship behind a screen is seemingly the proffered substitute to say, hand holding and gazing into each other’s eyes over the dinner table, and DarkDemon92 and UniqueTalent_33 execute it to such hilariously cringe results. 

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It becomes a relationship made up of word abbreviations and emoji’s; soon enough it becomes an honest question of how relationships are essentially sustained if they begin online. And what happens when you do meet IRL and the reality becomes a case of FML? (you’ll have to google that one). 

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Directed by  the award-winning producer/director Syd Heather, Textual Relationship is a brilliantly witty and endearing film; where it really holds up is in the honest depiction of the two leads (the wonderful pairing of Sarah Langrish-Smith and David Frias-Robles) using the handy breaking of the 4th wall technique. They confide in us, even when they’re in each others company, and it’s funny to see that as one faces the camera the other is looking somewhere off into the distance for consistency. We see the good and the saucy; there are no airs and graces and neither are to be pitied or even pitted against one another. They resonate with a generation who may have lost the art of social adeptness, especially when it comes to finding love.

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Technically, this is a nicely shot and wonderfully edited (some of the best scenes include the display of the leads side by side in reality, but proverbially distant emotionally) film, combined with an emotive original soundtrack (scored by composer Richard D. Taylor) not far off from one of those Working Title produced feature boy meets girl features. 

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Did I enjoy it? Yes. For 15 minutes you’ll undoubtedly laugh at the awkward exchanges, find yourself nodding (or hiding behind your hands) during  poignant moments; and as the melancholic self-reflection from the leads delve into underlying admonitions about the pros and cons of embarking on a relationship primarily online, you’ll be completely fond of both characters.

I hasten to add, that in no way is this film against online dating, but it is cautious about the realities and complexities that a majority may come up against when navigating the online dating-sphere. In fact, I’d argue that it says more about how convenient online dating can be, but altogether it’s no different from hooking up with someone in a bar and inevitably waking up the next day and realising you’ve made a terrible mistake. And that’s the kind of reality I can get down with.

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An off-beat, reverse-romantic comedy of sorts, Textual Relationship,  is a British short with universal and very topical appeal. I missed this at the festival, but there is still a way to find out more about the film and it’s inception, and journey, via a pretty clever website that looks and feels like an actual dating site. 

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