Writer, director, producer, and actor Michelle Ehlen is probably best known for the lesbian comedy trilogy Butch Jamie (2007), Heterosexual Jill (2013), and S&M Sally (2015). Though she still brings the laughs, Ehlen treads slightly more serious ground with Maybe Someday, a tender and mature exploration of grief, love, and memory.
After separating from her wife, a non-binary photographer named Jay (Ehlen) heads to Los Angeles to start her life over again. Midway through the drive, she stops to visit her childhood best friend, Jess (Shaela Cook). Unable to fully commit to the move, and still hoping to reconcile with her wife, Lily (Jeneen Robinson), Jay lingers in Jess’ small town where she strikes up an unexpected friendship with an amateur stand-up comic (Charlie Steers).
The film switches back and forth between Jay’s present struggle to let go of her marriage and her teenage memories of falling in love with, and losing, Jess. While adult Jay may have grown past her adolescent longing for her straight best friend, the parallel storylines serve as a reminder that grief and heartbreak are never easy — no matter how much we feel like we’ve grown up.
Maybe Someday also demonstrates how much Ehlen has grown as a filmmaker. Visually, the film plays with perspective, lighting, and colour in significant and sophisticated ways. In one of the opening scenes, Jay enters Lily’s new apartment for the first time. As the camera trails after Lily, we see the rooms, doors, and hallways from Jay’s point of view. Not only does this choice place the viewer firmly in Jay’s life and world, but it also helps to immediately establish Maybe Someday’s visual language. While Jay spends the beginning of the film surrounded in darkness and shadow, Lily is brightly lit, and her home is bathed in warmth with accents of pink and bright green. The lighting and colour palette reflect Jay’s continued love for Lily, as well as Lily’s ability to move on and find happiness in her new life without Jay.
While the plot itself is rather thin, the story is more about Jay’s inner world than her external one. Her search for love and joy is vividly expressed in the play of light and shadow. The use of perspective and light is a nice nod to Jay’s profession too — as a photographer, it is believable that she would see and interpret the world in such a way.
Eliza Blair is vulnerable and heartbreaking as young Jay, bringing energy and openness to what is otherwise a well-worn teenage-lesbian-falls-for-straight-best-friend story. Ehlen herself is charming and hilarious as grownup Jay. Both her pain and her refusal to accept the end of her relationship are believable and deeply sympathetic. Yet she is also funny and silly, never letting herself become the object of pity for the other characters, or the audience.
While some of the dialogue is a little on the nose and the third act has a few too many lengthy montages, the script is self-aware, and clever, enough to laugh at its own clichés. Maybe Someday is a story of grief and loss but, for all its sadness, it is a surprisingly optimistic, lighthearted film. To take on a painful subject and allow it to be funny and sweet without detracting from its seriousness is no small feat — but Maybe Someday manages to make it look easy.
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