LONG STORY SHORT
The meet-cute is a staple in romantic comedies. Teddy (Rafe Spall) and Leanne (Zahra Newman) hurtle through theirs in the opening credits of writer and director Josh Lawson’s delightful comedy Long Story Short. Mistaking Leanne for his girlfriend (she’s wearing the same dress), he twirls her round at a party and plants a big amorous kiss on her lips. After making his sincere apologies for the identity mix-up and offering to buy her a drink in recompense, he suffers a life-threatening allergic reaction (before the kiss, she ate some nuts), and they end their inaugural meeting by sticking him with an EpiPen.
The story unfolds in a similarly diverting, if absurd, way as Teddy, on the morning after his wedding, discovers that he’s been losing time. We’re not talking minutes or hours. But, every day, he jumps a full year into his future with no memory of the events that occurred in-between. This situation befalls Teddy because he needs to learn the value of time. He’s a major procrastinator, and his indecisions affect his relationship. The universe is presenting him with a lesson in making the most of the precious time he has before he suffers the consequences of lost love.
“I can’t do everything right now,” he tells a stranger, who engages him in a conversation and learns he’s about to be married but hasn’t set a date for the nuptials. “Later can turn into too late,” she tells him. “What if you woke up and a whole year had gone by just like that?”
The story that follows is a fulfillment of the woman’s prophecy, but it’s not without precedent, as anyone who’s seen Frank Capra’s celebrated It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) can attest. In a sense, Teddy’s predicament is like film’s George Bailey, but instead of a chance to see what the world would be like without him, Teddy sees the world go by with him in it, yet devoid of his memories of it. On the first morning after the wedding, he’s confounded by the fact that his home looks different, his new wife, an aspiring writer, is 18 weeks pregnant, and it’s already his first anniversary.
No satisfactory reason is given for the time jumps. It requires suspension of disbelief and works mainly as a MacGuffin. How it’s happening isn’t important. But why it’s happening is.
It goes on from there. A baby — his baby — appears for the first time (from his perspective) because he wasn’t present at her birth. Well, he was but wasn’t, because it happened in a moment lost to time.
The stories focus on the complications, not of time travel per se, but of the interpersonal relationships that ensue because of it. Teddy could explain his predicament to Leanne, but that won’t change the fact that he’s routinely facing the consequences of promises broken by default: He can’t keep a promise he doesn’t remember making. From the perspective of loved ones, he’s indifferent, uncaring, and self-
absorbed. Spall plays Teddy as a man taking all these sudden jumps into the future in stride. He tries his best to go with the flow, which is funny, like when he asks Leanne to tell him what her novel, which he read, is about, and sometimes heartbreaking.
It all works largely because of the likability of characters that are relatable. Spall and Newman have terrific on-screen chemistry, and we become invested in his efforts to win her back after their relationship falters. While you could say that it falters through no fault of his own, that would be missing the point. The gift he’s received doesn’t change his life, it just lets him see it sped up.
It’s a lesson to us all. If you could project yourself 20 years into the future and don’t like what you see, what can you do in the present to ensure a different outcome? You can do that any time, as long as you still have time.
Comedy, romance, rated R, 90 minutes, in theaters and On Demand and Digital July 2, 3 chiles