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At the intersection of our desire for love and our obsession with perfection lies the well-crafted dramatic horror short “A Good Couple”.

There’s a fine line between love and desire. Desire is about what we crave — a drug that gets us high, an adrenaline rush, a fairytale. Desire is what advertisers use to get us to buy things we can’t afford to impress people we don’t care about. It’s pure seduction. In a relationship, it’s what gives us those wonderful butterflies and makes us feel like we’re under the spell of something magical…and perfect.

Love is more complicated. When desire wanes, love is what keeps us invested. It’s what we hold on to when things get messy; when the shimmer has worn off and the ugly cracks have all surfaced.

So many of us claim to be seeking love when what we really want is the fairytale. We don’t want complicated and messy. We want the seduction — the picture-perfect Instagram relationship that’s beautiful and hassle-free. If everything is perfect, then we will be happy. If we look perfect, wear the perfect clothes, live in the perfect home, and date the perfect person, then we’ll be enough.

A Good Couple, the new short film written and directed by Robert Gregson, examines the relationship between perfect and good, fantasy and reality.

Julia (Julie Ann Earls) is frustrated with the reality of who she’s dating and wishes she could actually be in love, but her relationship to love is complicated by the perfection she’s imagining. Although her boyfriend, Dan (Alex Mandell), changes and she gets what she wants, she pays a heavy price.

Characters literally double and split as their desire for fantasy diverges further from reality.

During a weekend getaway to a beautiful rental house in the woods, Julia and Dan have a huge fight — and we can tell it’s far from their first one. Dan storms out and leaves for the night, leaving Julia alone to ponder her relationship troubles and her inability to find the kind of love that will make everything better. While commiserating with a friend on the phone, she makes a wish for perfect love and happiness.

The next morning, Dan returns and Julia is eager to send him packing. But something is different.

He’s kinder, more thoughtful, more patient. He brings her flowers. He takes responsibility for his actions. He says and does all the right things. She’s enamored with his change of heart and happy to rekindle their romance. But, with this radical personality shift and a series of strange occurrences, Julia can’t shake the nagging suspicion that something isn’t quite right.

When the couple goes for a romantic walk in the woods, a disturbing encounter validates Julia’s worst fears. Nothing is as it seems, and it’s no longer possible to know what’s real and what’s just an illusion.

And as terrifying as that uncertainty is, even scarier is the realization that having something real, perhaps, isn’t all that important.

Shot in just 3 days on a shoestring budget, with a cast and crew of about 10 people (with only two characters appearing onscreen), Gregson demonstrates a solid command of his craft.

A Good Couple is gorgeously shot and beautiful to look at.

The performances are believable and compelling to watch — especially Earls who demonstrates a wide range of emotions in such a short runtime and is impossible to take your eyes off of. The clever, well-crafted script hooked me right away and kept me riveted as the mystery unfolded, building intrigue until the hugely satisfying payoff.

Gregson explains his inspiration for the film, which effectively explores our neverending desire for the ideal:

The relationship between perfect and good is something our culture deals with constantly, whether by controlling appearances through a perfect image on Instagram, perfectly tracking or anticipating traffic through an app, or judging one’s accomplishments against an imagined, alternative perfect reality, visions of the ideal are constantly nearby.

“A GOOD COUPLE explores this obsession, and what would happen if the protagonist lost the ability, and desire, to distinguish between fantasy and reality.”

A Good Couple will premiere at the 24th Dances With Films Festival, screening at the famed Chinese Theatres in Los Angeles on Saturday, September 1st. Be sure to keep up with the film on Instagram at @a_good_couple_short.

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