Seinfeldian exploration of pseudo-nothingness in The Ex And The Why

Currently on the festival circuit seeking a distributor is Jon Bradley’s feature film debut The Ex And The Why. Rob Samuels takes a look at this quirky comedy.

Film Review: The Ex And The Why

Discover More: Top 10 Quirky Films

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From the outside The Ex And The Why presents itself as a Seinfeldian exploration of pseudo-nothingness. The basics are this: Jeff is attempting to get back a Lord of the Rings box set he lent to his (half) brother Wes. Unfortunately for all concerned, the 236-hour-long trilogy somehow wound up in the hands of Wes’ ex-girlfriend Morgan. Much like the box set that acts as the centrepiece to the plot, things aren’t quite as simple as they really should be for our hero, thanks mostly to Jeff’s crippling inability to be a human being. Oh, and Morgan being batshit mental.

The Ex And The Why is the full-length debut from young filmmaker Jon Bradley, whose credits include directing and writing the feature. James Iles – who acts as Jeff, was also involved as a writer as well as producing alongside co-star Toria Pardoe. Impressively, the film was put together with a meagre budget of £250, with Iles travelling from Wales to star in the project throughout the duration of filming. Bradley’s parents house provides the setting for the entire picture, which does explain why Morgan finds herself somewhat oddly camped out in the living room of her ex-boyfriends house. Visually, the film is extremely crisp by any standards, let alone considering the restraints in which The Ex And The Why was filmed. As opposed to big, costly audio equipment, discreet microphones were hidden in the cast members clothing during filming, and it works well – with the audio quality generally very good throughout. This is a DIY film in ethos, but the finished product far exceeds this ideal.

“A fun and likeable debut – The Ex And The Why is a weirdly wonderful real-time exploration of oddball humour and even oddballier characters, all wrapped up in a simple plot.”

The film focuses on Jeff (Iles) – a desperately awkward, and desperately unemployed 20-something that lives with his unseen half-brother Wes (voiced by Bradley). Unlike Wes, who is a total “playah” (of video games), Jeff isn’t quite as confident with the opposite sex. In fact, this is a motif that is routinely explored throughout the film, and even cheekily self-referenced during one of the many painfully awkward Jeff/Morgan conversations. Morgan (Pardoe), a possibly unhinged, possibly misunderstood ex-girlfriend of Wes, acts as the ultimate embodiment of Jeff’s social anxieties. Morgan, who lives in a pillow fort, is a pretty bob-on reflection of hipster culture – her failed Vonnegut reference is an effortless example of this. And so on. She clearly works hard to appear insane, and her mystique feels very self-imposed.

Wes and Jeff’s relationship is particularly enjoyable, and their dialogue has a real Larry David vibe about it at times: “You did the double lend?”. Wes is seemingly the only person Jeff can talk to comfortably, but even his (half) brother doesn’t always understand our hero’s unusual motives. Jeff’s aim is actually very simple, he just wants to watch 8 films in a row and avoid real life. Ironically though, this simple aspiration is derailed by real life.

Film Review: The Ex And The Why

Iles’ performance as Jeff is so magnificently awkward and geeky that it would make Michael Cera cringe right out of his chinos. The way he slithers down the stairs, squirms into corners to avoid confrontation, and flops to his knees after losing a miniscule amount of blood tells you more about him than I can here. Pardoe’s character is a little more restricting; most comedies require a straight man – and Morgan kind of fits into this vein, but really for the lack of another option. It would have been interesting to see her character allowed a bit more breathing room, and maybe fleshed out a little more. A special mention must go to Eryl Lloyd Parry, whose excellent portrayal of King Oscar is a real highlight of the film.

The Ex And The Why is a weirdly wonderful real-time exploration of oddball humour and even oddballier characters, all wrapped up in a simple plot. A really fun and likeable debut.

Discover More: Find out more about the film’s production and chat to the director Jon Bradley himself at The Ex and the Why’s Facebook page / Also, check out Live For Film’s interview with producer and actor James Iles

Review by Rob SamuelsSee all reviews

The Ex and the WhyDirected by: Jon Bradley
Written by: Jon Bradley, James Iles
Starring: Toria Pardoe, James Iles, Donna Parry, Eryl Lloyd Parry, Poppy Flanagan, Abigail Ramsdale, Jon Bradley, James Nettleton, Jay Bradley, Heather Abram, Chris Bradley, Les Bradley
Synopsis: The socially inept Jeff must contend with his brother’s passive-aggressive ex girlfriend to reclaim a borrowed DVD.
Released: 2013 / Genre: Comedy / Country: UK / IMDB
Buy from DVD | Blu-ray
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