Mae and Ash

August 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Released: 2012; Written and Directed by: Shuchi Talati; With: Kelsey McNamee, Milo Cawthorne, Natasha Sims, Zachary Webber

The premise of Mae and Ash is laid out from the 36th second of the film; it just takes the untrained eye a little while to understand.  Mae and Ash are a young couple who live in an apartment outfitted in a sea of white, cream, ivory, and overall comfort.  They fit into their bed like puzzle pieces, their bare feet peeking out the end of the comforter.  They play “Words” together, a game wherein they each complete one page of a book of word scrambles, attempting a record time.  Whoever completes the page fastest and squeaks the small, stuffed lamb in the center of the table, wins.  They’ve been keeping score on a small blackboard for what appears to be months.  They make tea.  They fold clothes and sit at their computers.  They function.  They are a couple.  And, for all intents and purposes, they appear to be in love.

Within the first 20 seconds of the film, while they sit in bed together, Mae expresses her confusion regarding the fact that her mother has just recently cheated on her father.  She indicates that her mom’s “not really the cheating type.”  At second 36, Ash explains, “Everyone’s the cheating type.”

It isn’t explicitly spelled out until later in the film, while Mae is on a date with Robert, a man she’s talked about only briefly and intermittently to Ash as they’re explaining their plans for the evening to one another.  Robert asks if there’s anything else he should know about her and Mae tells him that she has a boyfriend and that they are in an open relationship.  Roberts seems a little taken aback and, as they imbibe more, he gets a little gutsier and starts asking questions.  Robert’s representative of our viewer here, taking a back seat to the action, but asking all the questions we’ve got swimming around in our heads.  Mae explains that she never gets jealous because she never sees any of the other women.

Enter Kayla.  Kayla is Ash’s date for the evening.  Mae and Ash have made an arrangement that they will each stay with their respective date for the evening, Ash at their shared apartment, Mae at her date’s.  Kayla will be out of their apartment by 9:00 a.m.  Mae will be home, assumably from Robert’s place, by 9:30 a.m.  Upon entering her apartment the following morning, we find that not only is Kayla still there, but that Mae, in her attempt to display her comfort with the situation, forces a casual breaky on everyone.  It is at this point that the bubbling exposed nerves which Mae’s been keeping under wraps for so long, start to surface.

Her issues have been technically apparent for the entirety of the film.  Mae wears red, she uses a red pillow, and even her chair (in which she sits while playing “Words” has a red stripe on it.  White (and its spectral offspring) is the representative color of Mae and Ash’s life and Mae’s been besmirching it since the beginning of the film.  It’s a clever and beautifully executed delineation because, like a mirror to Mae’s own attempted acceptance of something with which she is not comfortable, we don’t notice it until we’re ready.

There isn’t a weak member of this cast, all of them giving developed and lovely performances.  Kelsey McNamee and Milo Cawthorne are electric as Mae and Ash and have been schooled if, in absolutely nothing else, the art of heart wrenching timing.

This movie is a triple threat: technically mature, beautifully-acted, and tightly-written.  It would be a true shame to miss it.

— Leah Gehlsen Morlan
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