Regardless of age and experience, how many or how few you’ve had, relationships are hard. That’s to be expected when two people, each with their own wants, desires and emotional baggage, come to share a life together. But while some find comfort in the fine balance and dance that comes from the give-and-take of relationships, for others, that balance is difficult, if not impossible to find.
Writer/director Drake Doremus has built his career on exploring relationships, be they long-distance (Like Crazy), forbidden (Breathe In, Equals) or, as is the case of Endings, Beginnings, self discovery. That theme, the idea of finding oneself, is always at play in Doremus’ projects but this time around, it’s really central to both the storytelling and motivation for Daphne.
Recently broken up, we meet Daphne as she’s moving into her sister’s pool house. Again. For reasons that aren’t clear until much, much later, Daphne has left her job after a six month stint, broken up with her boyfriend, a guy she continues to refer to as possibly “the one” and is just trying to find her footing in this new reality of being single by taking a sabbatical from alcohol and men. At a New Year’s party, she meets both Frank and Jack, two very different men, exuding very different energies and both of whom have their own appeal for Daphne. Where Jack is successful, assured and well spoken, Frank is an enigma of self deprecation, exuding an air of chaos and danger.
While at first both relationships start off innocently enough, they both quickly develop into more and Daphne finds herself in the midst of two complicated, romantic relationships neither of which is exactly what she’s looking for. But then, she doesn’t really know what she’s looking for.
While Doremus gorgeously captures the emotion and physicality of new relationships, something the director has shown he does well, Endings, Beginnings is emotionally anchored by Daphne who is navigating said relationships with little idea of where she’s heading. It’s easy to look at Daphne from the outside and judge her harshly for her actions and shake our heads at her apparently missteps but it’s that knee jerk reaction that makes Endings, Beginnings special; if we’re not in that situation, it’s easy to write her off as a train wreck but the truth is that we’ve all been there. We’ve all made mistakes and decisions that to onlookers, appear to be self-damaging.
Doremus’ films always feel intimate and exploding with emotion, often making them uncomfortable to watch but they work, largely because of the rawness of the emotions anchored by great performances. Shailene Woodley, already known as a talent, gives a raw, fearless performance as Daphne. The film’s emotional centre lies with Woodley who fully embraces both the passion and despair that Daphne moves through. While both Jamie Dornan and Sebastian Stan as Jack and Frank respectively, bring their own physical and emotional pretense to the movie, the buck starts and stops with Woodley who more than stands up to the challenge.
It’s sometimes difficult to watch Daphne’s rudderless meandering and while she ultimately finds her way, the joy comes from watching her try, fail, and try again. There’s great catharsis in realizing that you’re seeing some small part of yourself onscreen and when Daphne ultimately finds her way, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief. There’s hope for us after all.
Endings, Beginnings is now available on VOD.