The Time of Your Life, Directed By Frank Juarez
Labeling films as realistic or surrealistic may occasionally help us to with their classification. But labeling always simplifies the viewers’ task: a film is a sci-fi, a war movie, a horror or a musical. Such labeling helps us to focus on the prominent features of a film at the expense of ignoring other ones to easily deal with them, guess the intention of the filmmaker, or achieve a more unified image in concluding what we have seen so far. But the truth is no matter how much films play with clichés and generic rules, deal with familiar stories, relations, and meanings, still there are some aspects which cannot be included in the structure of their genres. Sometimes a film categorized as criminal, reveals some meaning associated with a surrealistic one. Another time, a horror film reflects vehemently anti-war themes. Every film has its own world and attempts to create a part or whole of it with its tools and abilities. The world of every film is different from the others; every film makes an opening that other ones do not pay attention to it. As a result, one cannot trust film categorization very much.
The Time of Your Life is a strange film, a bold and dashing one, one that is stingy in giving information. It ambiguously develops and presents characters, places, and relationships and does not clearly share its intention with the audience. It is a film that dos not easily give in to the current trends of the world of short films. At the beginning of the film, we see a woman who, while walking in the sidewalks, looks for something in her pockets. Suddenly she stops and returns; the image is cut and shifted to two women, hesitant whether to enter the house of their host or not. There is a strange and mysterious ambiance that has fully occupied the audio band. Right from the beginning, the film tells us it is not going to explain the relationship between the scenes and the reason behind their getting cut. Who was that woman? Who are these two women? Where are they going? The fear and nervous laughter in their behavior reminds us of the world of the films of a man where the most normal behaviors change into unusual, complicated, and awkward reactions: the world of David Lynch. In the cinema of Lynch as well, simple activities such as dining or driving connect us to weird, illusory, and irritating scenes.
Let’s return to the world that Frank Juarez, the director of Time of Your Life, has created. In such a world, dialogues are not supposed to guide us; we are not to find out the nature and quality of the relationship among the characters by focusing on the dialogs. Conversely, each of these dialogs can take us further away from the direction of the story. The film shows that beside dialogues, which do not necessarily lead anywhere, characters are also incapable of making any meaningful conversation with each other. The guests cannot converse with Kyra, as soon as they get to start a conversation, Kyra leaves them. We also never get to know who Kyra really is. On the other hand, the guests (Jess and Stacy) do not have a logical relationship; their conversation is senseless, and their intention is vague. We do not know what goes on in their minds and from where they have come. First we see them in the corridor of Kyra’s house. They do not have stable moods and predisposition, and theirs constantly change from timidity, unwillingness, and fear to nervous laughter and frivolity, for a moment they get serious and a bit later seemingly they are afraid of something again. In this part, focusing on objects gets noticeable; a factor that may be a key to the world of the film. Jess and Stacy have something in their purses but whenever they want to take it out, something prevents them; at first, Kyra comes to welcome the guests. Objects like closet and bed are part of this puzzle. Kyra says there is a monster under the bed and Jess and Stacy laugh.
Misunderstanding acts as the turn of the story to create a surprise ending. We understand from Kyra’s facial expression that she was not joking about the monster under the bed. Kyra’s tiredness, sleeplessness, confusion, illusion, and sorrow are shown through misunderstanding and the isolation of the characters from each other. Jess and Stacy live in a real world, but Kyra enters the surreal world. The filmmaker questions reality and illusion by the surprise ending. What is reality? Isn’t it something we experience? Disregard of others’ understanding, what we experience is our realty.
This film is a strange case that deals with themes such as mind and body, with whatever goes on in our inside and our surrounding, with what we fancy as reality. Frank Juarez can manage to keep the film at the border of fancy and reality. He has succeeded in making a well-formed film that succinctly stores a group of signs; signs that, after watching the film several times, emerge from a corner to lead our attention to differences and discrepancies existing in the world of characters. Unlike typical films, The Time of Your Life demands an active participation by the audience, as the viewers must be completely aware of the things happening in the film to be able to fully understand the events that unfold. Frank Juarez is one the directors whose films promise a better future for both short films and the world of cinema as a whole.