Mark Korven and Tony Duggan-Smith
Recently, I attended the premiere screening of a film - a short - “LEMON” by Mark Korven and Tony Duggan-Smith. Not having much experience with short films, I thought, “A commercial, just longer. How involved can one get in a ten minute and fifteen second interval?” I was about to learn the impact and lasting impression those few minutes and seconds can deliver.
To compare the emotional journey to a roller-coaster ride would be correct on one level, yet complete fluff on another. Speed and height are thrilling when combined at the dizzying pace of an amusement park ride. Now, take this physical experience and apply it to the mind. This ‘slice of life’ film comes at you with breathtaking intensity. Feel the Click… Click… Click as you ascend to the top and lose sight of where you are going. Just when you expect to tip the crest and go into free-fall, this story takes you to that brink and holds you there. It defies gravity and everything you are sure of, capturing the space between breaths leaving you shocked and speechless. The metal of the roller coaster is creaking now against this grip. At the instant your perception is altered and you have seen something you were neither expecting nor will ever forget, the descent begins flooding your mind with pain, confusion, love, compassion and an altering depth of understanding; all in the space between one heart beat and another. My state of mind has never been so jarred and set off balance in such a short amount of time as with this experience. Ten minutes and fifteen seconds may as well have been a blink of an eye.
Aptly titled LEMON, the metaphor of a broken-down car has not escaped this mechanically-challenged onlooker. Automobiles determine lifestyle. We go to work in them, take care of chores and responsibilities with them and travel to reachable destinations for holidays because of them. We rely on their relative safety, dependability and convenience. What indignation and inconvenience we feel when our cars do not work when we expect them to.
The main character Manny learns this all too well when his family vacation is cut short because of mechanical failure. Car mishaps happen anywhere, at any time. Serious accidents can cause instant and devastating change. At once, your life goes from what you know to what you never knew. And, all you thought you knew is shattered and swept away by the winding of time. These are the moments that fill us with fear. And, as we react from this place of fear, anger is the very easy emotion to take hold of. Anger becomes the dagger. To say it is the most powerful of the emotions would be playing right into the hands of it. Entitlement is its dance partner, twirling and dipping to the beat of the moment, seducing and drawing us in.
The film ends in silence. The kind of silence you cannot ignore. Manny, who has decided on his feelings for a stranger that has declined to help them when it was expected he should, sees how wrong he was when this person does help without being asked at a moment when his family would otherwise be broken apart forever. Manny stands and faces up to the gift he has been given; a gift delivered contrary to his own actions. In a flash, he sees the true nature and kindness we are all capable of. He sees the power of love. With humility, he will never assume the same again; never expect the same and will never feel entitlement the same. It is said that wisdom is acquired after letting go of the knowledge one has already learned and accepting the new. This is a film about wisdom.
After LEMON finished and we heard from Mark and Tony, we were treated to an encore. "EARTH EXCEPT BETTER" is a flash of brilliance caught on film as we glimpse a conversation between Mark and his son Kai.
…On growing up, Kai described it, “…as those around me appeared to be getting bigger, it felt as though I was getting smaller.” The struggle with self-doubt and coming to terms with individual limitations is as varied as fingerprints. Yet, this condition of self-awareness is universal.
…And, a young man’s view of life and death? For Kai, the metaphor is flying; defying the human condition; making the choice between having angel wings and being Superman.
Thank you, Mark and Kai for showing us that life, although complicated, need not be. There is wisdom in discovering when to have wings to soar with the wind and when to don a cape and fly directly into it. Yours is a personal moment with universal timelessness.