Favorites, directed by Lauren Hoover, is a delicate and introspective drama that impressively blends footage of past and present relationships to create deep feelings of love and loss. The film follows Lea (Mariasha Altynbay) as she spends a regular Sunday with her boyfriend, Vincent (Brandon Sklenar), while grappling with thoughts of past lovers. She dwells on the perfections and imperfections of her relationships, the way Vincent’s presence leaves her empty and the way the others’ absence fills the space. Favorites is an intelligent and mature film that leaves space for thought about how human beings interact, communicate and fail to connect with each other from moment to moment.
The film opens almost immediately with Lea saying to Vincent, “Sometimes I feel like I miss you”. This sets the tone for the rest of the film as it addresses the notion of being in a relationship but not really being present in a relationship; being around but not really being there. Altynbay, as Lea, brings a subtle emotional performance which captures the sinking feeling and turmoil of questioning whether your current relationship is right and dealing with past regrets. We are given access to her inner thoughts, her doubt and loneliness, and they resonate in a real and profound way. The film does a good job of meditating on the distance that grows between people; the invasion of the outside world and the interruptions that stem the flow of love and affection.
Favorites is atmospheric and moody, brilliantly moving through interior and exterior locations while making each one of them feel lived in and authentic. The film is beautifully shot (Zach Fritz), with light breaking through windows and shadows covering the floor and faces. At times, Lea sits in the shade of the house contemplating, and these are some of the best looking scenes in the film. There is a haziness to the lighting in these moments that mirrors her psychology. Each room feels distinctive, each with its own memories, and when the film moves outside to a location in the hills, the landscapes are a striking and expansive contrast to the enclosure of the house. The film builds a slow and reflective story through thoughtful and tender cinematography.
Favorites is formally creative, making use of a number of techniques which bring added dimensions to the film. Though the editing (K. Spencer Jones) takes a little while to get used to, the switching between relationships is generally smooth and creates the desired blending effect. The editing is disorienting without overwhelming the romantic elements of the film, and for this it must be commended. The film also uses subtitles at different points to portray the inner dialogue of Lea. This has been used before in other films, recently and notably in the films of Mike Mills, but the technique is used to good effect here. It adds a level of relatability to her character.
Favorites is a gentle and sensitive short film. It is careful and disarming, delving into emotional depths without feeling burdensome or heavy-handed. The film captures two fading and burnt out lovers and addresses the creeping, yet conscious feeling of a relationship coming to a close. The piano score emphasizes the drifting nature of the film, leaving space for thought and breath. It is a film that encourages self-contemplation: it is truthful and tender.