In a world where the definition of relationships is ever-evolving, the short film Radical Honesty has a powerful message to share. Created by Bianca Poletti, and written by Allison Goldfarb, it had its release at this year’s SXSW Festival.
Radical Honesty tells the story of Rachel (Allison Goldfarb) and Jack (John Hein), two people at the end of date that by all appearances is going well. Chaos ensues, however, when Jack reveals the nature of his “open” relationship.
Right off the bat, this movie is a fascinating meditation on language itself, and how the words we used to define the most basic concepts can not only evolve, but be co-opted for various purposes. In this case, the hint that the language of openness can be used for coercion and manipulation. This gives the otherwise comedic film a fascinating sinister undertone.
Poletti so masterfully distills this dark romance into a commentary about the practical realities of “open” relationships. What happens when definitions within relationships are varied, and when reality becomes disconnected from ideals? These are the questions Radical Honesty wants the audience to ponder.
Goldfarb, who was both the screenwriter and the main actress in this movie, gives such an enthralling performance. Drawing from her own experiences of seeing those around her open their relationships, it’s so clear that she understands the importance of actual honesty within the context of a relationship, rather than just paying the concept lip service.
The cinematography of this film is exceptional. The use of space, in this case a diner, is used so effectively. No inch is wasted, and there is a distinct feeling that we as the audience are bystanders as this situation with fellow diners rapidly devolves out of control. Who among us hasn’t experienced a date going rapidly downhill while we try to enjoy our own meal? That feeling is captured perfectly.
Radical Honesty never seeks to invalidate the concept of open or polyamorous relationships. Rather, it’s an indictment of those who seek to take advantage of these progressive concepts, and in effect absolve themselves from any honesty and accountability themselves. As detestable as his character becomes, John Hein very clearly understood this assignment in a spectacular way.
Poletti and Goldfarb spoke about how this short film will form the basis of an upcoming episodic project, featuring similar snapshots of couples in various situations. Radical Honesty is a great launch point to see more stories of this type. As a society, we continue to be captivated by watching people trying to form genuine romantic connections, and the missteps and chaos along the way.
Radical Honesty speaks to a cultural moment where current generations are re-examining and re-defining the very concept of relationships. Are the blueprints given to us by previous generations still useful for our time, or have they served their purpose? To pose these questions in less than 10 minutes was no easy feat. Yet, the creators of this short film pulled it off, and will leave viewers thinking long and hard about their relationships long after the credits roll.
Radical Honesty is currently screening at SXSW.