The new short “No Direction,” written and directed by Melissa Finell, follows a young college graduate named Jamie, who happens to be a lesbian, as she tries to figure out what on earth she’s going to do with her brand new philosophy degree. After some disappointing interviews and general aimlessness, Jamie falls in love with the soothing, Teutonic voice of her parents’ GPS and fantasizes about all the different paths her life could take. Eventually, she reenters the real world resigned to the struggle and drudgery that is modern post-grad life—and discovers that it might be exactly what she needed.
Those of us who graduated from college in the past few years can definitely identify with Jamie’s plight, especially in light of the dismal economic conditions that college grads have found themselves tossed into since the start of the Great Recession. Several hilarious scenes of Jamie waiting for interviews alongside hyper-overachiever types (“I’m just back from a Fulbright in Malawi…”) pinpoint the extreme competitiveness that educated young adults currently face; even a degree from a top school doesn’t guarantee much of anything anymore, especially when one has chosen to major in something double-take worthy like philosophy (or film studies!).
Finell’s treatment of Jamie’s character (played by newcomer Harper Gernet-Girard) is completely straightforward; she is a fully realized character whose development, while hilarious, feels honest and true; her sexual orientation is figured as an essential part of her character, not a spectacle to be highlighted. If only Hollywood features had the courage to present gay characters as un-histrionically as Finell does here!
That said, the film is still wildly funny and delightfully imaginative. During a dream sequence, Jamie imagines herself working a corporate job, marrying the beautiful GPS woman (Flavia Prado), and having a baby (“We used artificial insemination,” Prado’s character states in her over-the-top accent). Then, suddenly, Jamie sees the pressures that would come with such a lifestyle; her boss yells at her, the baby starts crying, and the GPS woman seems much less alluring when she talks about needing money for formula and diapers. Once again, Jamie is left directionless.
Eventually, Jamie meets up with Rachel, another young lesbian (Rebecca Newman) who is also a recent college grad. After an awkward first date, the two run into each other again and start off on the right foot, with both of them acknowledging the humiliation and bafflement that go with the territory of having a degree and no idea what to do with it. Once Jamie and Rachel accept the uncharted nature of their futures, things finally seem to go in the right direction. Finell’s careful treatment of her characters and her story make this short charming and touching in just the right proportions.
“No Direction” has already racked up an impressive list of appearances, having screened at the Frameline Film Fest in San Francisco, QFest in Philadelphia, NewFest in NYC, and the LA Shorts Fest, among several others. Director Finell is currently an MFA student in the renowned filmmaking program at UCLA, where she will produce more shorts and, eventually, feature films. Here’s marking her down as one to watch!
Visit http://nodirectionthemovie.com/screenings/ to find a screening of “No Direction” near you.