I first became familiar with writer/director Michelle Ehlen with 2015's S&M Sally, a film that left me simply announcing to no one in particular that "I love this film." So, my expectations were high for Ehlen's latest film Maybe Someday.
Maybe Someday had its in-person premiere this past week at Frameline Festival. Less comedic than Ehlen's previous films like the aforementioned S&M Sally along with Butch Jamie and Heterosexual Jill, Maybe Someday still possesses Ehlen's earthy sense of humor but also possesses a remarkable poignancy and introspective heart. In the film, Ehlen stars as Jay, a non-binary photographer who has recently separated from her wife Lily (Jeneen Robinson). Seeking a new beginning, she heads out to Los Angeles stopping along the way to visit a childhood best friend, Jess (Shaela Cook). Conflicted about the journey, Jay lingers in Jess's small town and strikes up a friendship with an amateur stand-up comic, Tommy (Charlie Steers).
Maybe Someday is a quietly moving motion picture, simultaneously humorous in natural places yet grounded in honest feelings and the natural tensions and intimacies of relationships and friendships. Ehlen is gifted with a strong ensemble cast here and it all starts with Ehlen. As Jay, Ehlen captures all the moments of heartbreak and exhilaration found in grief, loss, dealing with and embracing memories, and figuring out how to give and receive love. Avoiding any hint of caricature, Ehlen infuses Jay with such a richness of humanity that your drawn in and become incredibly protective.
While Ehlen is largely front-and-center here, I must confess that I found myself rather in awe of Charlie Steers' turn as Tommy. This is truly a remarkable performance, heartbreaking in moments whether Tommy is putting up walls to avoid getting hurt again or bombing onstage. I would easily watch an entire film wrapped around Tommy and 90 minutes wasn't nearly enough time in Tommy's world.
The rest of the ensemble is strong, from a tender and loving opening scene featuring Jeneen Robinson's Lily to Shaela Cook as Jess, a former best friend and crush whose heterosexuality is palpably a little crushing for Jay. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a dazzling turn by Eliza Blair as young Jay, a case of perfect casting as Blair matches Ehlen so beautifully that it's easy to see the life transformation. Cameron Norman is also impressive as young Jess.
Lensing by Wenting Deng Fisher is so immersive that you practically feel like you're immersed in this world. Production design kudos, as well, to Heath Daniels for setting the atmospheric tone for a film that envelopes intimacy at its most comfortable and most jarring.
Maybe Someday is truly a wonderful film from Ehlen. It's a film that tackles universal issues in intimate ways and it's a film that makes us love these characters so much that we're invested in how Ehlen's story unfolds. There are so many scenes here that linger in my heart and mind as I sit here writing this review and reflecting upon the experience of Maybe Someday.
Ehlen's past films have screened at over 100 festivals picking up 20 awards along the way. Here's hoping that Maybe Someday Ehlen will get the kudos so richly deserved. Maybe Someday is, indeed, a beautiful little film about loss and grief, love and letting go. Simultaneously funny and sweet, heartbreaking and achingly vulnerable, Maybe Someday is a film you won't want to miss.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic