Directed by Chris Esper Starring Trevor Duke and J.D. Achille Short Film Review by Annie Vincent
An amusing critique of the dating scene today, Undatement Center tells the story of Jack, a young man looking for love.
Upon arrival at the Undatement Center, Jack (Trevor Duke) accidentally skips the ‘sign up’ desk and finds himself in front of a frosty young woman who seems pretty disappointed in him. Initially it seems like this is the dating consultant, the woman to check his application and suggest potential love matches, but we come to realise this is actually a woman looking for a date - she’s just not at all interested in Jack and has dismissed him for not bringing along his application form.
Keen to get on the right track and make a success of his love life, Jack signs up. He’s reluctant to share the reason for the twelve year gap since his last relationship, but begins working on the rest of his application, submitting his medical history and even a urine sample in a bid to pass the gruelling interviews he’s put through by the eligible women. After numerous attempts, all of which are unsuccessful and comically awkward, Jack has had enough, so the Undatement Center offer him the chance to be the interviewer; the one who can control the selection of a potential partner.
An amusing, though somewhat poignant, montage shows Jack putting a variety of women through their paces in the harshest way – is he taking all that pent up frustration over the interviews he had to endure out on any woman that comes along now? Eventually, Lindsay (J.D. Achille) is seated in front of him. Immediately, we know she will be different as Jack’s attention is captured. Her application reveals a long gap since she last dated and, like him, she also doesn’t want to disclose why. He dismisses her instantly for this. Not to be put off though, Lindsay perseveres and finds out he enjoys bowling. She invites him on a date, but he says he can’t – have his experiences at the center now caused so much anxiety he cannot see how a date will ever result in anything but upset?
This short film is an amusing critique of the dating world today. With prospective lovers offering up every minute detail of their lives and romantic history for evaluation by a potential match, it isn’t hard to imagine a place like the Undatement Center existing. It’s sad really, and here Chris Esper reminds us that sifting and sorting your love matches in this way just isn’t right. He tries to return us to the simplistic beauty of human relationships – the ones that are based on gut feelings.
The moment between Jack and Lindsay, when he shows his true weakness, is touching. The close camera work and traditionally gooey love song in the background gives the audience that warm, snuggly, rom-com feeling and we instantly want this relationship to work out. The comedy here is subtle with Duke conveying so many thoughts without uttering a word at times. Whilst drastic, his experiences at the center aren’t that far from the awkward dates we’ve all experienced at one time or another.
Whether we choose to admit it or not, we’re all suckers for that butterfly-in-your-tummy love and Esper plays to this beautifully here. Undatement Center is definitely one to see for romcom fans.