In movies about relationships, the small details need to ring true. Emily, the feature length debut from director Ryan Graves, takes a tiny-by-design story and earnestly goes deep, exploring the destructive impulses, badly timed stabs at nobility, and increasingly mixed signals of a couple on the brink. Without showy declarations of intent or roof-raising histrionics, it captures how people can be perfect together, until they aren’t.
Set in Portland, the plot follows a young married couple (Michael Draper and Rachael Perrell Fosket) seemingly content with their extremely Northwest careers—technical writing for him, coffee shop for her—and hosting the occasional Bible study night in their realistically cramped apartment. Then he begins to question things. Everything, really.
The script by Graves and cowriter Kelly McCrillis does a commendable job in capturing the unlovely moments of the characters without ever resorting to demonization, particularly when it comes to showing how even fundamentally decent people can sometimes do jerky things while fumbling for the right response. The even-handedness is bolstered by strong performances from both of the leads, especially Fosket, who nails the tricky act of being both resolutely devout and realistically human. Her not-so-nonchalant expressions while waiting on the couch for an important text reply speak volumes.
Knowing when to draw the curtain on a slice-of-life story can be tough, and Graves’s plot takes a turn in the last act that initially doesn’t seem to track with the rest of the narrative’s flow. In hindsight, however, the untidiness of the resolution feels like a further confirmation of the filmmaker’s appreciation for how relationships generally refuse to follow any known chart. Throughout, Emily proves to be a movie with an impressive understanding and respect for the uncertainty principle of coexistence. The final shot is exactly what it should be.