Mayfly, written and directed by Keith Andreen, is a gut-wrenching family drama that explores grief, guilt, responsibility and forgiveness. We are introduced to successful self-help author Aaron Driscoll (Warren Kole) who, after a long day of talk shows, book signings and motivational speaking, is startled awake by someone holding him at gunpoint. The familiar intruder demands the truth about his past and forces him to confront the pain that he has buried deep within himself under layers of clichés, catch phrases and business speak. Mayfly is strikingly compassionate and irresistibly affecting.
Mayfly does an exceptional job of constructing character, emotion and tension with immediate effect. The cross-cutting between locations, the stage and the house, the former lit up by harsh light and the latter covered by shadows and darkness, builds the pace and feeling of the film brilliantly. The initial bluster and bravado of Aaron’s stage persona, intentionally overacted and high key, is interrupted by a creeping sense of emptiness and absence. The platform, the glint, the expressiveness is contrasted with the loneliness of lighting a cigarette in an oppressively spacious home. The film introduces information in a clear, but intriguing way. Indeed, as the subject matter becomes more apparent, the mystery deepens as we speculate about the nature of the relationships and their disintegration.
For a film that opens with a substantial set piece, Mayfly is predominantly anchored in a conversation in one room between two characters: Aaron and Daniella (Katrina Law). The strength of the film is that this conversation is both captivating and devastating in equal measure. The verbal back-and-forth is superbly written, with individual lines being incisive as well as the general themes of responsibility, guilt and shame resonating deeply. The visual depiction of memories throughout the conversation, interrupting the present moment, effectively breaks up the dialogue as well as taking us within the minds of Aaron and Daniella. Mayfly covers the commodification of suffering and the paralysis of suffering, as the critique of the self-help genre is used more as a vehicle for addressing the impact of trauma on relationships and individuals.
The performances in the film are impressive, especially given the intensity of the subject matter. Both Kole and Law never look like they are straining for emotion or depth, the feeling is natural and effortless. As the layers are peeled back, both play the whole range with poise. Tension is maintained throughout as both characters are sufficiently unpredictable, capable of explosive moments, while also personable and sympathetic: drawing you into their psyches. The cinematography (Dillon Schneider) is technically strong and uses intelligent contrasts in lighting and shadows to emphasize the different time periods. The subtle score, not overpowering at any point, adds whispers of sadness and hope to the pervading confusion of the present.
Mayfly lands with a focus on how fleeting and ephemeral life can be. It ruminates on the power that feelings, memories and marks left by human beings can have: they are things that can last forever, if we want them to. The film plays out as if within a confession box, with two people—at one time in love—sharing and processing the inexplicable and shattering events of life. By the end of the film, you feel a close intimacy to the family: to their pain, their uncertainty and their reconciliation.