Anna Sesia, the director, producer, and star of the brilliant short film, Single, asserts in an interview with Matthew Toffolo on May 1, 2021 that she came up with the idea of making Single during Italy’s big lockdown when she had to stay in her country home in Tuscany on her way to Rome from Milan in order to spend the night and continue her travel the next morning. Milan was closed during the night and the next Sunday the whole country was shut down and Sesia had to spend the next four months in her country house in total isolation. As an actress, she says, she always has stories in her head and during this imposed period of solitude and quiet characters and voices came to her so that after the lockdown she decided to “just play around”. The upshot of this “playing around” is this appreciated, award-winning, one-location, one-woman short film for which Sesia received the Best Performances award at the May 2021 Female Feedback Film Festival.
Single portrays a middle-aged woman smartly dressed in black who is back from the New Year’s Eve party, and upon entering her living room starts her long monologue. Through this monologue addressed to her pet dog and a photo, the character reminisces about the party in a complaining tone and a series of mood swings. When the dog makes some sounds, she interprets them to be a suggestion that she find her “prince charming” on the world wide web and thus sets about filling out some online dating forms. Not yet content, her attention is then directed to a photo with which she starts a frenzied dance. When the dance is over, she takes the dog out for a walk in a heightened state of emotions.
The short award-winning film benefits from a consistent narrative and a plausible plot that completely conforms with the world in which it takes place. The story unfolds compellingly and keeps the audience following along while identifying with the character. The opening shot is rather long and depicts a dimly lit living room into which the main character enters. The camera angle resembles that of a CCTV camera which exudes a sense of entrapment in what is then revealed to be feelings of loss, loneliness, and lack of authentic communication that are the main themes Single delicately explores.
These themes are reinforced by the use of monologue. Single’s monologue starts rigorously and in a manner that leads the audience towards believing it is addressed to another human, and when in the next shot they realize it is actually addressed to a dog dozing off in a cozy corner their expectations are reversed. It is through this reversal of expectations that the viewer is taken deeply into the universe of the film and the lonely world of the only character. The next shots consist of a series of long shots and close-ups showing her and the dog on a comfortable sofa bed. She is still dressed up and is sipping at a drink as if the party is continued at her place. Long shots focus on her touching and caressing the dog like a human being, and the masterfully acted close-ups accompanied by voices and sounds from the party still lingering in her head reveal her heightened emotions of loneliness even at the party. The conversations she recites for the dog suggest her loneliness is caused by a lack of genuine communication and empathy which are the results of the overly individualized modern life.
There are also some other pivotal scenes that augment and elaborate the story: when she is completing the online dating forms, when she lifts up the photo of an apparently departed loved one and directs the monologue towards it, and when she dances with the photo. The questions she is required to answer in order to find a perfect date are superficial and shallow focusing only on physical rather than intellectual features. Discouraged by this modern sterile way of finding a soul-mate, she then shifts the monologue from the dog to the photo.
She speaks to the photo in English which, along with the rather large library from the living room and her singing in French demonstrates her as an educated woman who looks for more in a partner than a merely physically attractive person. She afterwards invites the photo to a frenzied dance which signifies she has not yet fully gone through the stages of grief and although she is trying to come out of her loneliness as a new year’s resolution, she is still stuck in her past. This physical outpouring of long suppressed emotions comes to an end with a burst of tears she resolutely fights back.
In my estimation, Ann Sesia’s convincing acting complemented by an impeccable editing have successfully embodied the character on camera and delivered a performance we can relate to particularly because the pandemic lockdown has become a universal experience. Loss and loneliness are, in Matthew Toffolo’s words, “universal emotions” that everyone, regardless of their age or gender, can readily connect to.