This review might be best read after seeing the movie, as it will cover major plot twists.Perfectly Good Moment is a psychological thriller that stars Stephen Carlile and Amanda Jane Stern (who also wrote the screenplay) as Ruby and David, the couple at the center of the film’s story. The prologue, the only point in the movie besides the very end that features more than just the two actors, depicts how they met at Business Students Alumni Mixer. The rest of the movie is then spent examining their relationship, diving deeper and deeper into its toxicity and danger.
Act I & II
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Act I of the film takes place eight years after Ruby and David have broken up. Despite their reconciliation, there are several signs that this idyllic restart has resulted in a less-than-healthy relationship. The most blatant one might be David making Ruby repeatedly say, “I need you.”
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Besides that, David’s also indicated to be older than her. Later in the film, we learn that he was 15 when Ruby was born, and they met when she was a sophomore at Columbia when she was still relatively young. That’s a combination which is ripe for a power imbalance, though that doesn’t occur in every May-December romance.
Act II, set on the day they broke up, confirms the viewer’s worst fears about this relationship. At one point, Ruby goes to pick up a wine glass that David had poured for her, and he smacks her arm, telling her to let the drink sit, then downplays the situation by saying he didn’t hit her that hard.
Then comes one of the film’s most disturbing moments, where David outlines their wedding plans in a way that makes it clear that this is what he wants, not what they want. For instance, he booked a venue in London, where his family is and not hers, without showing it to her. He implies that Ruby hasn’t spoken to her family for a while when he says, “They haven’t been there for [her] the way [he] have.” Things only get worse when he says this is also the perfect time to have a baby.
So yeah, this break-up is less a break-up and more of an escape, which the film also indicates is something Ruby had attempted before. Naturally, that leads to the question of why Ruby would ever return to this guy. Well, at first, it appears to be the sad reality that many victims return to their abusers due to psychological, financial, or other reasons. That’s something you can read more about at Psychology Today.
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The audience is eventually dispelled of that notion (that Ruby is romantically returning to her abuser) by revealing that Ruby has different reasons for reconciling — revenge, and getting him to finally back off. Throughout the movie, we are given hints at what Ruby does for a living. When she and David first meet, she says she accepted an internship at a tech startup. He later says that she’ll want to quit her job making “silly little virtual games” now that they’re going to have two kids before Ruby’s 30.
Act III of Perfectly Good Moment shows us what the movie means by “augmented user experience” by taking a sharp turn into the realm of Black Mirror. Ruby drugs David’s coffee and hooks him up to this virtual reality headset like the characters in Ready Player One use. The entire first act of the movie was, in fact, a simulation, foreshadowed earlier by two photos glitching.
Earlier, during Act II, David catches Ruby in a lie when she says she’s swamped at work, despite being home early. Ruby says she has a doctor’s appointment with her OBGYN. In Act III, Ruby tells him that she did go to the doctor, but it was to have an abortion. If that bothers you, you could go with the interpretation of that as another lie since she is trying to get David to incriminate himself.
Perfectly Good Movie
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While Perfectly Good Moment isn’t as violently graphic as other films and shows about domestic abuse and sexual assault (tastelessness has set the bar pretty high), what it does show on screen is more than enough to be triggering. While potential viewers should keep that in mind, the film is nevertheless worth recommending.
A film abruptly shifting genre isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and Perfectly Good Moment handles it well. It’s also a very talky movie, the kind that could be easily turned into a stage play, which might turn some people off for a very different reason. However, the performances from Carlile and Stern are captivating. The film’s direction by Lauren Greenhall, making her narrative feature debut, was also very well-done.
Perfectly Good Moment is an independent feature film currently in the festival circuit.
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