Pet World, directed by Sofia Theodore-Pierce and Grace Mitchell
Program 4: April 23 at 3pm
Voiceover narration recalls the end of a relationship: “She said his last words to her had been, ‘Everything I ever did with you was love.” A pause follows, just long enough to consider the romance of the line, before the follow-up: “That was awfully sweet of that f***ing idiot to say.” Throughout Pet World, directed by Sofia Theodore-Pierce and Grace Mitchell, we find ourselves somewhere between lovers and f***ing idiots.
We conclude this year’s Wide Open Experimental Film Festival with this film because it is, in a way, full of goodbyes and endings. Eggshells are peeled and cast aside, ice cream melts, flowers wilt, postcards pile up. We see people in the liminal space of a parking lot , stuck between destination and arrival as they sit, eat, make messes, and kiss next to an adjacent beach and under landing airplanes.
Just as the carefully-framed movements have an uncanny familiarity about them, so too do the words spoken and repeated in the voiceover narration, which quotes from the short fiction of Amy Hempel. Many of the film’s scenes are simultaneously commonplace and bizarre. The film opens with a particularly striking scene in which a woman sits on a car hood eating a hard-boiled egg while her boyfriend watches intently from the front seat. This interaction, both innocent and oddly hostile, introduces the film’s exploration of the poignancy of banality— or maybe it’s the other way around.
The characters of Pet World are utterly vulnerable. Even in odd moments— for example when one character licks melting ice cream off of the face of another, or a sequence of several characters miming solo make-out sessions— the characters’ actions reflect an honest desire for intimacy. It’s a yearning for intimacy that is almost too raw to watch. That the characters betray no embarrassment makes it all the more captivating.
We watch much of the film through glass: warped reflections, hazy glares, dirty windows. I can’t help but wonder if the car windows stand in as mirrors. Am I watching strangers, or myself? Am I one of the lovers? Or am I one of the f***ing idiots?
By the film’s end, when the last pickup truck hauls its load— a harpist mid-song— out of the parking lot, it's clear what the film has known all along: as we drift into and out of fleeting intimacies, it isn’t one or the other. We’re all lovers and f***ing idiots at the same time. That’s what makes life painful, and it’s what makes life worth living.
-Billy Palumbo, Festival Director, Visiting Associate Professor
Oklahoma City University