In her short film This Perfect Day (2019), Australian-Chinese Director Lydia Rui paints an intimate, and quietly moving portrait of isolation, longing and reconciliation. We begin with a young adult, Jules, (Michelle Keating) who nervously braces themselves in a car before entering a music store, while their girlfriend (Hannah Koch) assures them that there is a reason why they are here today. They enter the music store and look around anxiously, as if suggesting to the audience that a robbery is about to happen. However, what happens next is a profoundly empathetic study on the desire to reunite with the ones we love, even when there is so much that can no longer be salvaged.
In an interview with Close-Up Culture on the film, Rui highlights the ethos that underscores her work, stating that she is driven by the desire to offer a semblance of hope to the darkness which typically belies representations of marginalised experiences.
I want to center marginalized experiences, to validate the diverse identities overshadowed in my childhood, to offer beauty and light in darkness.
Hope characterises This Perfect Day, even if it is a kind of hope that has to be fought for, and is tinged with the fatalistic knowledge of what remains irrevocably lost. Jules asks to play a song using one of the guitars on sale. The storeowner, John (Lee Mason), reluctantly agrees to their request. He listens intently while a look of recognition, coupled with surprise, flickers across his face. Jules mentions that it was their father’s favourite song. He asks them to return to play it. The film ends with Jules back in the car, browsing through a stack of unsent letters addressed to John.
The film’s persistent use of close-ups and shots which obscure our view evoke an incredibly tight and claustrophobic atmosphere between the two. This obscurity also implies a gulf of unspoken words, hence hinting at a fraught relationship that these two supposed strangers share with each other. Nothing is revealed about their connection, but the tension which fills our screens suggests that perhaps they have already known each other long before this encounter. While the film never clarifies their relationship, this lack of clarity forms the basis of Rui’s evocative portrayal of longing and reconciliation. The little hints points towards a connection, but they don’t quite add up perfectly. To reconcile with another is similar. Reconciliation begins with an awkward, unfamiliar encounter, where words don’t quite spell out properly like they are supposed to, and language fails. So as This Perfect Day illustrates, maybe the right words to say can only be conveyed by playing an un-named song on a rented guitar. Relationships must be fought for all over again.
Contextualising Rui’s quote above, I read This Perfect Day’s depiction of reconciliation as sharply similar to most LGBTQ people’s experiences of it. What most of us endure is the fatalistic recognition that most of our relationships with our loved ones are inevitably fraught. Even with acceptance, a world of difference continues to separate us from each other. Still, we persist. Like Jules and John, we persist to reconcile in little ways. He asks Jules to return to play this song, and sometimes in another ideal world, our parents might just ask us over to dinner to ask how we are. It isn’t perfect, but it is enough.
Lydia Rui is an Australian Directors Guild nominated Australian-Chinese filmmaker and director. Graduating with a BFA from the NYU Tisch School of Arts, Rui has also worked as a videographer for Beyonce Knowles’ ‘Mrs Carter World Tour’ from 2013 to 2014. ‘This Perfect Day’ is Rui’s second short film, and has made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival 2019. It was one of the 63 short films that was selected out of 5131 submissions. You can read up more on Rui’s work here: https://www.lydiarui.com