If you’ve read the synopsis of Just Say Goodbye you’re probably aware of what you could be letting yourself in for; this definitely isn’t a ‘feel good’ movie, it’s heart-wrenching, poignant and will probably stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
With the titles barely faded from the retina the heart break gets underway; a young Jesse, Max MacKenzie (“Evil Lives Here (TV)”, “NGHTMRE & Carmada: Embrace (Short)”) returns home from school to find his mum dead in bed having taken an overdose.
From this single point in time all the events of the film unfold, there’s no weeping and gnashing of teeth though, the moment is almost underplayed but this muted reaction helps to reinforce the sense of Jesse’s shock and incomprehension.
As the story continues you begin to see the rippling effect of the death not only on Jesse but those closest to him. The film is undoubtedly a tragic unfolding of events, you may go into the film thinking you know how it will end but in truth there are turns along the way that blur such certainty.
What is monumental in Just Say Goodbye is the friendship between Jesse and Sarah, Katerina Eichenberger (“Through Your Eyes (TV)”, “Consensual (Short)”).
Though stilted at times (more down to the acting than the script) their relationship is balanced beautifully, from the hint of sexual tension to the way Sarah never really grasps Jesse’s motivations for suicide.
Both characters are selfish at times, thinking only of the direct effect of suicide on themselves. Likewise both characters show real strength in the movie but in their own individual way.
There’s a scene in the film where Sarah defends Jesse from some bullies and it’s probably more evident here than anywhere else the inherent differences in the two characters: one is a confident, positive, straightforward person whilst the other is melancholy by nature, proud, arguably the more talented of the two but has no self confidence.
These differences ultimately make it almost impossible for either one to truly walk in the others shoes, despite their every effort. But it’s these two opposing sides that help to balance out the film and explore ideas that wouldn’t be possible from just one view point.
As is true in life Jesse’s depression makes him so self absorbed in his own conviction to end his life that he can’t see some of the good things around him: a beautiful and kind hearted best friend, an opportunity to use is talents are but two.
Jesse sees his suicide matter-of-factly and can’t comprehend Sarah’s absolute horror at it. This and Sarah’s inability to see Jesse’s reasoning is captured so well.
Jesse’s frustration at life is easy to get behind and there’s a scene where he unleashes his tension on a bully in a way that many an underdog would only dream of and if you’re not cheering him on here you probably never would.
Sarah sticks with Jesse and keeps trying to save him. Her love for him is a real corner stone for the film, it’s both heart warming and heart breaking at the same time. You’ll have to watch the movie though to know if she’s ultimately successful but it’s towards the end of the film where Katerina really comes into her own.
The movie isn’t without it’s faults, some of the acting feels a bit amateurish, the rich-kid highschool bully is a bit of a cliché and the side plot of the love child feels like an unnecessary and rather clumsy addition to the story.
There’s also a scene were Sarah has a long drive alone and the script does what it needs to do but the emotions just aren’t portrayed with the intensity the should be; where’s the fear, where are the tears?
And, on a lighter note, for anyone with eagle eyes, there are one or two continuity errors that crop up, though nothing so serious as to cause detriment to the overall experience.
The script writing is strong and its a shame that at times the actors don’t quite do it justice. Mother are daughter scenes come across quite naturally but there are moments between Jesse and Sarah that really needed to less stilted.
There are some who would say this is a slow burner but it didn’t feel that way to me, Sarah and Jesse’s lives aren’t fantastical, they are two average teenagers but it’s their unexceptional qualities that make it easy for the viewer to project onto them, to empathise with them and become caught up in their lives.
For those fortunate never to have been subjected to the events or feelings upon which the film is built, the character’s actions and emotions may be harder to understand or fully appreciate. But for many the thoughts and feelings will be only too familiar and it’s this portion of the audience Just Say Goodbye will really speak to.
It’s not just the story that is remarkable though, what has been achieved, from filming to directing to script writing, on a micro budget of $13k is a near miracle. $13k! That’s probably less than one those square jawed, brainless Hollywood cretins gets paid per day.
There are heaps more that could be said about Just Say Goodbye though, from the self pitying selfish father figure who’s too absorbed in his own misery to realise how much he’s damaging his son, to messages the movie so well conveys. But if you’ve read this much then I can only suggest you brace yourself and go and watch it.
Layla O Shea
THE QUICK SELL
Sarah slashes down the days to her summer vacation trip with all the gusto of Zorro and his infamous 'Z', until she discovers her best friend's plot to end his life while she's away