Social Distance on Netflix has eight stories that are so intimate and real that I wondered if someone had sent the birds out to spy on my life and then made movies about my feelings.
There are ten weeks left for the year to end and just like that we’ve become lost souls swimming our own fish bowls yearning to get out into the ocean.
We learnt to say WFH, we watched ordinary everyday people suddenly become migrants walking thousands of miles to reach an idea called home, we learnt the meaning of the word panic, and we realised how close we are to death.
Filmmakers shot films about isolation and I watched and recommended here a collection of wonderful short films called Homemade on Netflix. But the almost romantic view of aloneness has changed now. We have to stop ourselves from snapping at our significant others,try hard to not lose patience with our kids, or with the elderly who suddenly insist that they want to step out or a walk...How this pandemic has changed us…
This set of short films is titled Social Distance. The Netflix offering has eight stories that are so intimate and real that I wondered if someone had sent the birds out to spy on my life and then made movies about my feelings. Each uses technology in unique and brilliant ways: sometimes it’s a ‘zoom call’ and sometimes it’s video on the phone. And, in the coolest possible way, home surveillance cameras also record the footage. With each film, you feel like you’re actually there, sharing your point of view as the stories unfold.
I laughed with Ike and then stared at my screen just as he stared at his. Whoever says breakups are easy hasn’t stalked their high school crush on Facebook or searched for them in Insta and then drowned their sorrows in forbidden amber liquids...
If Ike’s story was painfully familiar, so was the story of young love. We may have grown up before ‘ghosting’ was a thing, but even you will agree, our heartbreaks were just as spectacular.
I looked up my childhood crush and smiled at the pictures he had uploaded (hashtag ‘bachpan’) when I watched the pangs of first love and the first heartbreak. I continue to be amazed at how aware young children are, even though we think that they just waste their time on the net.
Let me be the first to admit that my participation in the family video meets is a disaster. I am the strange monster who does not know one chachi’s knee troubles from the details of another chachi’s latest shopping spree. I don’t like achaar and have lived long enough to know that no matter who makes it, I will not be persuaded to eat Baingan bharta. I want to take this opportunity to thank the techie who discovered the ‘video off’ button on these calls where the family cannot see you laugh at their discussions about how the girl falls down into a suitcase, fits into it so perfectly that the suitcase zips up with her inside it… You wonder whether you really belong to this family and then you watch Michael trying to bring his family together on a video call.
Michael, Reina and Santi would fit right into my great Indian family. Even though their story brought tears to my eyes, I loved it when Uncle Tony finally discovers the mic unmute button and shares his view about the siblings… And yes, you will love his bolo tie as much as I did.
Some of us are fortunate that our kids have grown up and will not tug at our track pants when the boss is hosting yet another meeting and ask for a snack. And some kids just don’t get why their mommies and daddies say that they are working despite being at home. Michelle annoyed me by her constant demands and bad behaviour, but she was not the real problem as shown in the film. It pits two mothers with two children. Each with needs as different as can be. This film is practically brilliant in the conclusion that presents itself.
The other kid made me cry with his innocent demands of wanting a hug from a sick mother quarantined in the next room. The dad’s dilemma will make you wring your hands helplessly.
There are two more stories that are sure to help you rethink love. These stories made me smile because I could place real life people around me who are going through the same range of emotions and they’re almost all like Marco, Shane and Adam. Have you too discovered some weird habit of your loved one which you never really noticed before this forced intimacy? Are you beginning to pray hard that he (or she) leaves the house (even if it is for a short time) so you can actually breathe? Or watch that stupid show where the girl gets locked in a suitcase!
But, Carolyn’s and Neil’s story of long term intimacy stopped me in my tracks. When you make plans with a loved one, what’s the guarantee that love will remain the same? And that years down the line, all that planning and saving will be for nothing because one partner realises that they have just ended up building a golden cage for themselves instead of flying away to freedom.
The last film will hit you - as it did me - in the gut. I grew up being told that we need to do the right thing, always. But what do you do when your life poses this question: are you going to sit around and continue doing what you have to do when others are out there protesting to bring about a change? How long can you live with the status quo?
By the time you read this, Amazon Prime will also be ready to share from its treasure trove five stories shot during the pandemic from the point of view of five wonderful directors. It’s called Putham Pudhu Kaalai and since these stories are from India, perhaps viewers from across the oceans will find many things that resonate with them as well. Whether you call it ‘dil’ or ‘hruday’ or ‘corazon’ our hearts beat to create divine music.Manisha Lakhe Is A Poet, Film Critic, Traveller, Founder Of Caferati — An Online Writer’s Forum, Hosts Mumbai’s Oldest Open Mic, And Teaches Advertising, Films And Communication.