They say you only have one chance to make a first impression, a proverb that veteran film editor Melissa Kent may have reflected on during the creation of Bernie and Rebecca, her directorial debut. Appropriately enough that’s also at the heart of the short film, which centres on a blind date between the titular characters.
In a way mirroring the existence of her own extensive filmography, Kent eschews showing us the couple’s initial meeting, choosing instead to focus on their evening coming to a close. A lot has already been said and done by that point, but even with all of that behind them there’s the promise of more to come. A lot more, as the short film will eventually reveal.
Bernie and Rebecca is a work that takes the wonder and the “what if”s of any budding relationship as far as they can possibly go. The conversation they share about the lives that they could one day live is fantastic, to say the least, but it’s also sobering in the stark realism of what’s been laid out. In spite of this the tone never gets too dark, instead staying relatively lighthearted by virtue of the duo’s performance.
Rebecca never masks her emotions, and Brianna Barnes’ expressions say just as much as, if not more than, her actual lines do. Her face falls and lights up in response to every word out of her counterpart’s mouth. On that note, Kyle Davis’ greatest strength as Bernard is in his delivery, which bears a whispery, Tobey Maguire-esque quality. Not everything he says is entirely truthful, but all of it is heartfelt. Between the two of them the stars of this short film allow the audience to feel like they’re witness to something very personal and, in spite of the premise, very real.
Bernie & Rebecca doesn’t feel abrupt, nor does it overstay its welcome. You can only muse about the future for so long before you run out of fictional details. As a short film Melissa Kent’s directorial debut is short and, negative connotations of the word aside, sweet. A snapshot of a couple doing what we’ve all done countless times before.
Bernie and Rebecca screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival on June 16th. Its next screening will be at the Madrid International Film Festival, from July 2nd to July 9th. Tune back in soon for an exclusive Q&A with director Melissa Kent.