Footnotes is an endearing movie by an upstart video production company called Box Party Films. The film initially presents itself as an ostensible moment to reminisce about the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown by making clever allusions to the infamous toilet paper shortage, the exasperating chore of donning a mask in public, and the embarrassment of the quarantine 15. But by the end of its runtime, Footnotes reveals itself to be something much more powerful than a frivolous walk down memory lane. The film’s director, Chris Leary, does not simply rehash the miserable social conditions of 2020 for the sake of comedic nostalgia. He uses the situation to contextualize the human experience by brilliantly exploring themes of solitude, relationships, and emotional trauma.
The film starts by introducing us to a humdrum everyman named Will (Chris Leary). Will is an eligible bachelor that enjoys baseball, his 2012 Honda Accord, and eking out a living in professional obscurity. *INSERT YAWN EMOJI* I tell that joke somewhat ironically because when Will starts talking it’s instantly obvious that he‘s a really interesting guy. He’s funny, he’s smart, and he can hold court whenever he wants. However, the film makes it very clear from the beginning that he’s awash in crippling loneliness despite his captivating charms and it’s not all the lockdown’s fault. It’s a smart setup by Leary –he’s also the film’s writer— because it entices you to wonder: What is going on with this guy?
And the foil through which we ascertain that answer is his serendipitous neighbor, Apurna (Sharayu Mahale). Mahale portrays Apurna as an ebullient, easygoing, and overall fun person. Her first encounter with Will is fraught with flirtatious energy and clever innuendo, but it’s just coy enough to be more cute than salacious. However, their chemistry feels undeniably covalent, and you immediately start rooting for them to wind up together. It’s a dynamic that keeps you engaged throughout the film. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat conjecturing: Will they, or won’t they? But by the end of the movie you realize that’s an unfair question to ask.
Footnotes is not a love story. It’s not a romantic comedy. These characters don’t exist to satiate your fairytale cravings. It’s a thought-provoking probe into the complexities of love, friendship, and expectations. It’s almost reminiscent of Daisy and Jay’s conundrum in The Great Gatsby. At one point in the film, Apurna ambiguously tells Will, “I have to let you go,” and your stomach knots. Apurna, what do you mean exactly?! It’s an instance that serves as a microcosm for the entire film. They’re relationship incessantly teeters between being platonic or romantic and you’re caught in the middle most likely having chosen a side at some juncture in the picture. And that’s the value of Footnotes.
It not only forces you to assess whether or not it’s appropriate to shackle another person with your expectations; It forces you take stock of how you would or have acted in a similar situation. And in that way, Will and Apurna provide viewers with a great opportunity to engage in some broad-spectrum self-evaluation. At some point in your life, you’ve either been Will or you’ve been Apurna. You’ve hobbled someone with unreasonable expectations. You’ve used someone as a teddy bear. Footnotes doesn’t indict either course of action, but it does challenge you to reckon with its consequences.
Will and Apurna both have a myriad of issues to work through as individuals. I’m not a psychiatrist, but Will clearly exhibits tell-tale symptoms of clinical depression. (Don’t ask me how I know.) Apurna clearly exhibits tell-tale symptoms of narcissism. (Again, don’t ask me how I know.) How they handle those issues is totally up to them, but Footnotes highlights how such issues sometimes make it hard to interact with people we like (love), let alone can’t stand. And at a point in our civilization where confronting and addressing that reality is becoming more acceptable and viable, a movie like Footnotes is so necessary to keep that momentum going.
Footnotes is a really good film full of pathos. Leary plays a classic archetype, but does so with a unique sense of passion. Mahale gives a courageous performance as an Indian-American woman yoked by presumed standards of decorum. Together, they create an enlightening case study on the challenges associated with seemingly mundane social interactions. It’s a brave film. It’s a poignant film. It’s a movie that deserves an earnest viewing.
Find out more about Footnotes at https://www.boxpartyfilms.com/footnotes.