What Happened Was… (1994)

by Afra Nariman

What Happened Was… (1994)

Director: Tom Noonan

Stars: Karen Sillas, Tom Noonan


Yeah, well, dates are weird sometimes.”

Facades are slowly stripped; and with them, dialogue grows in authenticity. The film’sexperimentation with time, creative use of space, the tonal shifts, it’s final arrival at a place of honesty and it’s unveiling of human fragility, is all executed so well. 

Early in their conversations, when topics of discussion seem to still lean towards being relatively meaningless, or without substance, Jackie makes an important remark; recalling her observation that “we’re not all just extras;” we are all the protagonists of our own lives, living in a world full of other protagonists — each with their own goals, insecurities, secrets, hopes, etc. The film captures this idea, along with the feeling that sometimes arises when life is moving too fast and you find yourself simply going through the motions, just hoping to live a moment that feels authentically yours; but ironically, you’re afraid to be authentic in that moment. After a night filled with awkward conversations ranging in substance, the film explodes into an emotional finale that features a relieving presence of honesty and authenticity. 

Just as is done in the beginning of the film; in the end, the camera places their night in the context of an entire city full of people — protagonists whose honest stories we may never know — to cement the observation that anybody could have the experience we just saw unfold on screen; and that there are always so many more lives being lived, and stories being written, than just our own.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

View this Review on Letterboxd: https://boxd.it/3gDlYx

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