Recently, I was given the opportunity to see a screening of the short film 5 Stages, starring Lee Amir-Cohen and Lindsey Morgan. The film centers around Cal and Aubrey, a couple realizing that their relationship has deteriorated. In a short eight minute run time – the film packs a punch which includes all five stages of loss and grief. The song “Only You (And You Alone)” by the Platters haunts the film, serving as both opening and ending music. This is the only music used in the film, and from the moment it begins to play, the viewer knows that something is wrong.
Stage 1) Denial and Isolation – the film opens with Cal playing “Only You” alone in a dark apartment. This scene only lasts for a moment, but there is a sense that he has been waiting for some time. As Aubrey stumbles into the apartment, we see more of the area. Alcohol bottles litter a table. Has Cal been drinking? During the calm before the metaphorical storm, their relationship seems as though it’s not on the brink of ending. Even obvious passion can’t save a strained relationship.
Stage 2) Anger – the deterioration of the couple’s relationship occurs after a fight that Cal sparked because Aubrey has been out drinking until 5:07 in the morning. A fight soon ensues. A drink becomes a few drinks then come the accusations of Aubrey’s behavior.
Stage 3) Bargaining – shortly before the fight, the two begin to kiss and begin the preludes to having sex. In that scene, both are ignoring the fact that she has been out late. It is only when Cal tastes whiskey on Aubrey’s lips that the fight actually begins.
Stage 4) Depression – this stage seems to go along with denial and isolation. We see Cal physically isolated at the beginning of the film. Aubrey has been out with her friends, but the only thing we know about Cal’s night is that he has been waiting for Aubrey. Along with subtle clues that he too might have been drinking – he has been lamenting over their relationship alone; however, Aubrey’s behavior (drinking, partying, and sleeping with other men) also shows that something in their relationship is not right.
Stage 5) Acceptance – “What the fuck are we doing, Cal?” Aubrey asks him. “I don’t know anymore,” he replies. They sit on the floor together, and Cal offers Aubrey a cigarette (something he previously chastised her over). He begins to smoke and “Only You” begins to play again. The viewer is filled with the sense that these two have accepted that something is wrong in their relationship. However, there is no explicit statement that they have or will break-up.
The film was beautifully done, wonderfully written, and the acting top notch. Both Lee Amir-Cohen and Lindsey Morgan did a fantastic job portraying this strained couple. Viewers could feel the growing animosity that had long been developing between the characters. In eight minutes, Lee Amir-Cohen was able to show all five stages of grief and loss within this deteriorating relationship, and in a way that was visually appealing and interesting.
Enjoy the Behind the Scenes video of 5 Stages.