Year: 2017
Director(s): Zoe Lister-Jones
Writer(s): Zoe Lister-Jones
Region of Origin: US

Rating: Unrated
Color, 91 mins

Synopsis: A couple who can’t stop fighting embark on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band. (Source)

There are two ways to solve any conflict – run away, or fight your way straight through it, cuts, bruises and all. Band Aid, written and directed by star Zoe Lister-Jones is in part, about the latter, a colorful, semi-musical that dissects modern relationships with lots of spunk and brave honesty. Though the film’s core is a rom com, that feels like a reductive label, one that doesn’t properly express how special it truly is. Thanks to Lister-Jones’ more than capable vision, she’s turned in a beautiful celebration of the imperfections and struggles that make us stronger, throwing in a few infectious tunes along the way. Jones and her co-star Adam Pally sizzle with chemistry and the film’s effervescent charm makes us feel that much lighter once the credits role. In short, this film’s a surefire crowd pleaser that has something for everyone, and you can’t help but get drawn in by its charm.

When we first meet Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally), the couple are arguing about who gets to do the dishes. It may seem trivial, but the mundane argument hides a deep-rooted trauma that continues to eat away at the couple. Though they don’t exactly hate each other, the tension between them grows worse by the day, until they rediscover their love of music. Unearthing a guitar and bass from their high school days, the two decide that the only way to save their marriage is to turn their arguments into songs. Ensiling the help of their kooky neighbor, “Weird Dave” (Fred Armisen), Anna and Ben may have finally found an outlet to confront their struggles and the trauma that has crippled their relationship for so long.

Though the film is breezy and carries a light tone, it never belittles the serious themes and ideas at its core. As it turns out, the root of Anna and Ben’s troubles stem from a major event that happened between the two. This past pain has left them emotionally and professionally complacent, preventing them from moving past their grief and unable to liberate themselves from the insecurities that eat away at them. What Jones does best is bring to life a relationship that is complicated, unpredictable and urgent, finding humor through candid fragility and characters who are desperately looking for a way to feel again. Make no mistake, there’s a devastating story here, but Jones celebrates the need to push forward, that it’s important to take all of that pain and turn it into something else. In this way, the film is a beautiful tribute to the healing properties of art and music, and how important they are in giving our unsaid fears a voice. Speaking of the music, it’s a perfect embodiment of Anna and Ben’s bottled up emotions – the songs are catchy and fun but also sloppy and messy, in a way that is raw and most importantly honest.

As mentioned, Jones and Pally are both incredible together, making the film impossible to look away from. As Anna, Jones really anchors the film, delivering a headstrong character who transforms throughout, initially unable to articulate her feelings until finally being liberated by her bravery to open up. Jones navigates the film’s tonal shifts with grit, helping to take us through the story’s complexity in a way that feels natural. As Ben, Pally is a great counterpoint, more closed up, using humor to hide his true feelings. Pally is really charming, finding a line between cynic and broken soul. Adding a hint of flourish, is Fred Armisen’s Dave, the couple’s next dour neighbor who has a funny, totally weird subplot of his own. He’s going through his own stuff, adding levity to some of the film’s heavier spots.

Band Aid feels like a breath of fresh air – it’s bursting with sincerity, but also full of profound wit. It’s hard to watch the majority of the film without anything less than a giant grin, proving the fact that Jones (who makes her directorial debut here) is a huge artistic voice to be reckoned with. Relational dramedies are rarely this poppy and fresh, with Jones balancing everything just right. When all is said and done, this one’s full of undeniable heart, laughs and an important reminder that pain, struggle and imperfection are a way of life – it’s what we do with these pitfalls that define who we are and what we become.