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INCOMPLETENESS

355 Productions, 2023

45 minutes

Creator:

David Ash

Reading Time:

7 minutes

📷 : Used with permission, David Ash

INCOMPLETENESSWarmth and Wonder (KYIMEPVPAOSPKG1R)
00:00 / 07:59
INCOMPLETENESS

Ginger

Image of show's tea brew

Thought-provoking movies and TV shows

Honeybush

Image of show's tea brew

Nonfamily dramas with strong adult and/or socioeconomic themes

Reba Chaisson

2024-02-29

Note: This series contains strong content and sensitive subject matter.


INCOMPLETENESS is a hilarious, though not comedic series, that centers Alex, a talented 30-something video editor recently diagnosed with a serious illness. Typically, shows focusing on a main character who is sick spend a lot of time in medical settings, with the person confined to a hospital bed, undergoing procedures, and interacting with staff who, sadly, understand the patient’s fate. But in INCOMPLETENESS, Alex’s illness is a backstory that gives us context for interpreting the conversations and behaviors of the characters in the show. Alex’s diagnosis envelops the show in a seemingly quiet backdrop, emanating a sense that the characters exist rather than exuberantly live their lives. It is as if they have all been gut-punched and are trying to figure out how to breathe again. Their process leads to numerous but subtle moments of fall-on-the-floor hilarity that both forces us to sit in the silence of their lives and question the meaning of our own.


Exemplary of these funny but introspective moments is the way Alex, played by Matt Bailey (Set It Up, The Path), handles news of a promotion at work. Many of us typically respond to such announcements like Taylor Swift winning her fourth Grammy for Album of the Year - with wide-eyed excitement, a mouth drop, and tears of joy. Alex’s response is slow, tame, and subdued. After a time, he shows a controlled smile and simultaneously thanks his boss, expressing his appreciation. He then promptly returns to his office and continues his work as if it’s just another day, leaving us laughing and wondering, “What? Really?”


This scene, though, makes us pause and consider how we have been socialized to manage our emotions. It makes us realize there are situations where we don’t want to display exuberance, such as when being applauded after a piano recital. It makes us realize there are occasions where we don’t want to cry, such as when a friend hurts our feelings, or a boss humiliates us. In Alex’s case, his response to his promotion makes us question whether it is something he values at this point in his life.


Alex’s best friend is Paul, played by Clarence Wethern (Twin Cities, Theater People). The two friends collaborate on a movie, with Alex as the director/editor and Paul as the writer. Alex is never satisfied with the drafts of Paul’s script because he feels they lack conflict. His level of frustration on this issue is high, as evidenced by the script edits he sends to Paul in all caps and the frequent arguing between the two on set. For Alex, it is as if his life depends on this essential story element. His frustration with this issue is palpable and beckons us to ponder the function of conflict in our lives. To what degree, for example, does being in conflict with ourselves and/or others make us feel alive?


INCOMPLETENESS is a slow burn that stirs my memory of the late 1980s series, Thirtysomething, with Ken Olin, Timothy Busfield, and Patricia Wettig. The Emmy-winning show is about a group of 30-something year-old friends experiencing life in different ways. Some are married with children, two are business partners, one is a professor, and another a local politician. The dialog on the show is witty and occasionally intense, mirroring what happens in close relationships, thus making the characters relatable for the audience within their age demographic during their era.


Like Thirtysomething, the characters in INCOMPLETENESS are similar in age, socioeconomic status, and wit. There is little overlap in their relationships, however. Alex and Paul, for example, are close friends, but there is no on-screen connection between Alex’s wife Jodi, played by Bethany Ford, and Paul. Similarly, Paul’s girlfriend, Kayla, has not met anyone in his life. And outside of shooting their film, Alex and Paul are not shown together socially. Also central to INCOMPLETENESS are Chelsea (Christine Weber) and Michael (Juan Rivera Lebron), the two lead actors in Alex and Paul’s movie. Other than their limited interactions with Alex and Paul on set, Chelsea and Michael have no relationship with any of the other characters in the series. Thus, unlike Thirtysomething, INCOMPLETENESS presents the three couples as having detached existences, making their lives, to this point in the series, feel siloed.


The characters in INCOMPLETENESS seamlessly infuse advanced jargon and abstract thought into their everyday conversations. I love that director David Ash does not shy away from this, given the characters’ backgrounds. Both Alex and Paul are college-educated, and in addition to being a writer, Paul is a gifted STEM professional. We observe one of their abstract exchanges when Alex approaches Paul in a rustic, quiet, and sparsely populated coffee shop with ideas (or demands) about revising his script — again. Paul veers into a philosophical diatribe about how we lack true free will and that all of life’s outcomes are predetermined. With a deadpan look, Alex patiently listens but nonchalantly disagrees, reiterates the changes he wants to the script, and leaves.

 

The hilarious moment is one of many throughout the series, which makes us curious to know what situation will arise next. The scenes in the show are not interconnected but layered in like a puzzle for the audience to see through to a complete story. In the meantime, what we experience from INCOMPLETENESS, is something moving, challenging, and desperate that stems from each of the characters, who all seem to want something other than what they have.


Ash makes use of indoor silence and natural outdoor sounds in the series. Wind and rustling leaves serve as background music for outdoor scenes, and sunshine, trees, and bodies of water provide a landscape that combined seem to breathe fresh air into the show’s space. The series adopts filming techniques similar to Netflix’s 2023 movie, Missing, with Tim Griffin, Nia Long, and Storm Reid. It is about an 18-year-old, played by Storm Reid, who uses technology to track down the whereabouts of her missing mother. Much of the movie presents a frontal view of Reid’s character, panicked and frantically typing away on her computer, with occasional shots of her manipulations on the computer screen. NCOMPLETENESS does the same with Alex, as he occasionally uses his computer to film himself talking and then subsequently edits his recordings. It presents the same focal points with Paul writing and revising the script for their movie, all while developing a program for what he believes to be a cure for human disease, “so not one of us ever has to die.”


I like the originality of this series. It slowly peels back the layers of the characters to reveal their imperfections and eccentricities, making them realistic representations of ourselves complete with our doubts, fears, and even regrets. It forces us to rest in the characters’ exchanges, facial expressions, and body language – spending time with them to learn about ourselves through them. What we learn is that we carry some level of unhappiness and dissatisfaction within us, making us incomplete. This leaves us with the lingering question: What are we going to do about it, particularly since our time is not guaranteed?



INCOMPLETENESS is currently being shopped to streaming services. To receive updates on its availability, please inquire on the show’s website at www.incompletenesstheseries.com.

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