When someone describes a film as poetic, what does that mean? Does that mean the film is slow, portentous? Or does it mean moving, enlightening? To me, poetic filmmaking is the act of crafting something that ignores all the textbook filmmaking rules and just attempts to create something unique and special. Poetic films challenge specific ideologies, and force us as an audience to face certain things we would rather turn our backs to.
Some poetic films tend to not be enjoyable, or lack a certain quality that makes it watchable. But every now and again a poetic film comes along that forces us into a deeper psychological state of thinking. We project our own life experiences into the experiences of the characters in the film and in doing so, create a much more intimate connection. A film that tackles this idea with near perfection is the 2016 romance drama film Blue Jay.
Blue Jay has quite a minimalist plot. The film revolves around two former high school sweethearts, Jim and Amanda, played by Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson. The two former lovers meet by chance at a grocery store in their hometown and they begin reflecting on their shared past. Discussing how far the both of them have come since dating in high school, new relationships, past demons, everything under the sun that the two could possibly discuss.
Channeling familiar tones of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, and even hues of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy, the film not only takes on a nostalgic tone but also a satisfying one. Something about Blue Jay feels rather satisfying, whether it be the topics of conversation between Jim and Amanda or the romance that clearly emits off screen. Each scene is incredibly powerful and the transitions are seamless. The dialogue flows like a river between scenes, and nothing comes from the film other than these small little moments of grace shared between the two main characters.
What Makes the Film Poetic?
Considering what we now know about poetic filmmaking, what exactly classifies Blue Jay as poetic? One simple answer rises from that question, character interaction. A lot of modern films seem to be lacking a crucial element of filmmaking, and that crucial element is character interaction. We see film after film where the audience cannot connect to the characters, or the characters serve so little purpose to one another that it’s difficult to relate to the situations the characters find themselves in.
But Blue Jay makes it a breeze on the audience in terms of connecting with Jim and Amanda. Part of this is due to how the two characters are designed. Jim and Amanda both have some pretty clear flaws. The two are giving false truths to one another about how their lives have been going when deep down it seems like the only thing the both of them want is to be with each other. Throughout the film Jim and Amanda lie about how great things have been going for one another but as the cracks start to continuously reveal themselves, we get to see both of these characters broken down. Broken down into almost a bare nothing, gazing into their true intentions and shameful regrets.
But if this film channels familiar tones, what makes it unique or special? It’s probably because of how bare we actually get to see these characters. Usually filmmakers refuse to suspend our disbelief to a certain extent so that we still only see a fabricated version of what appears to be truthful characters. But with Blue Jay it doesn’t feel like we’re watching actors read out a script, it feels like we’re witnessing two actual human beings handle this difficult scenario.
Reuniting with someone you used to love then coming to realize that you still love them is a difficult thing to go through. We spend our lives trying to avoid running into ex-lovers, and when we do we cannot think of a way to exit the situation fast enough. Blue Jay shows a much different side of things. Instead of trying to show how these characters want to exit the situation, we see what it would be like if you took the chance to try and rekindle the flame. Blue Jay is all about taking a risk with someone who used to mean an impending deal in your life then having to watch them walk out of your life, again.
Perfectly woven together
Not only is the screenplay moving in the way that it is written, but also in how each scene is perfectly woven together. Not only does each dialogue scene feel natural and satisfying, but each scene fits perfectly into the relationship that is crafted between Jim and Amanda. There are no flashbacks in the film, so we only get a few small glimpses into the past that Jim and Amanda share. So we as an audience are forced to piece together what we assume was a picture perfect relationship, but as the dialogue continues we learn more and more about how the cracks formed and eventually broke the two of them. The poetic aspect of the film shines through the amount of realism that is shown.
Sometimes we don’t understand the past, sometimes we cannot commit to a difficult life decision when we are young, and when we mature and give things another chance we will never be sure of the outcome. So what do we do? Do you take a leap of faith and hope for the best? Or cower in a corner and hope you can live your life with few regrets? Blue Jay challenges this way of thinking and forces you to discover an answer for yourself until you are left in a puddle of your own tears.
Blue Jay is a beautiful, simplistic film that manages to challenge all ideals revolving around being in love and being in a relationship. Even if you haven’t had many romantic experiences, this film will force you to create scenarios you’ve never lived in. The filmmakers crafted a joyous and heartwarming interaction between two truthful human beings, that grows into an implosion of suppressed emotions.
Blue Jay weaves in and out of beautifully written scenes and dialogue, with a minimalist visual style focusing solely on the performances and the interactions. A film that seems to have been forgotten in the wonderful year of 2016, Blue Jay deserves much more attention than it has been given.
Have you seen Blue Jay? If so, what are your thoughts on the film? Let us know below!
Blue Jay is available on Netflix.