Radical Honesty is a short film directed by Bianca Poletti and written by Allison Goldfarb. On a blind date, Rachel (Goldfarb) and Jack (John Hein) find out they have the kind of chemistry most people only dream of. They even agree that relationship dynamics should evolve and change over the years. However, when Rachel suggests they go back to her place, Jack reveals that he’s in an open relationship — and things spiral from there.
The selection of films at film festivals often ranges in terms of subject matter and even budget, but one of the most endearing genres has to be the small coming-of-age indie. Last year’s SXSW yielded some gems, including Inbetween Girl and Best Summer Ever, with both films taking a clever approach to the usual pitfalls of adolescence. Radical Honesty does the same, with Poletti and Goldfarb opting to explore how 20-somethings navigate dating and sexuality in the modern age. Perhaps the best choice the film makes is to explore how an open relationship has just as many emotional boundaries as a monogamous one. People look at polyamory and think, “Oh, this is great; I have a free license to sleep around!” But there’s more to it than that; you have to consider multiple people’s feelings and the bonds you form with them.
That complexity is brought to the screen courtesy of Goldfarb and Hein, who bring life into their characters in a short period of time which is no easy feat. Goldfarb’s facial expressions as Rachel are perfectly timed; over the course of the film she shifts from excited at the prospect of meeting Jack, to curiosity over the nature of his relationship, to regret when she realizes what she’s gotten herself into. Having seen dates that went exactly like this in public, I have to say that Hein also nails the “clueless white boy” very well.
Poletti stages the film like a one-act play, with Rachel and Jack having their conversation over a cup of coffee. Most of the blocking and shots usually focus on one of the two, with a few shots having both of them in the frame. There’s even a great tracking shot as the waitress (Melanie Alexa Buenrostro) moves from table to table, complete with an old-school title card. Seven minutes isn’t a lot of time, but the fact that Poletti manages to tell a complete story in that time is nothing short of admirable.
Radical Honesty tackles the ups and downs of modern relationships in a brisk seven minutes, providing laughs and introspection along the way. The craft on display is impressive, and I look forward to Poletti’s next feature. I could definitely see this being expanded into a full film.
Radical Honesty had its world premiere during the SXSW 2022 Film Festival in the Narrative Shorts Competition.