A few years back, or maybe more than a few years back, you were a teenager. A person who felt ready to deal with every card life dealt you, and a person who was also terrified that this newfound strength was an illusion. A person who couldn’t wait to grow up, and have it all figured out because being an adult meant being someone that has no doubts, no unanswered questions, and no fear of the future.
Being an adult, however, is recognizing that this notion of invincibility is just a fantasy, or perhaps false hope. But as teenagers, Cora Santino (Katraya Wier) and Ben Abbott (Marcus McDermott) in the short film Well Water by the creative and talented filmmaker and writer, Sharisse Zeroonian, are too young to see through this fabrication.
As we enter the world of Cora and Ben in Boston Massachusetts, we see a young couple in love that can’t wait to graduate into real life. The whole film is based on dialogue alone, and it’s up to the audience to piece the truth together amidst a plethora of exchanges. Interestingly enough, Ben and Cora don’t share the exact same vision of adulthood. Cora wants to experience everything, from having sex with her boyfriend to relocating to New York and study photography so as to see it all. Ben, on the other hand, wants to “have a job and work till [he] dies.” So, how can two incompatible futures become one, conjoined?
Cora is a dreamer; she wants to live a colorful life that’s going to have an impact. Desiring intensity and the freedom to express herself above all else, Cora wants to be intimate with Ben because she wants their relationship to move forward. She wants to study in New York because she longs to prove herself; to prove her worth. Her move to the big, scary city is a demonstration that her parents were wrong to belittle and doubt her. Living the life of a New York artist is what Cora believes the proper initiation to adulthood to be.
For Ben, however, Cora’s dreams are unnecessary; they show her lack of maturity, as he defines it, which in turn compromises his faith in their future. Ben wants to launch himself into the later years in a house located somewhere that’s not “too crowded.” He strives for a household that is arranged in a proper manner – big plates have to go under small plates, not only because that’s how geometry works, but also this is how things are. At first glance, this seems insignificant, but Ben likes to play by the rules. Changing things leads to deviation from a path he was given; the right path. Coloring outside the lines, therefore, is not his style.
Hence, Cora and Ben’s opposing viewpoints, the old-fashioned/modern binary, constantly clash. For instance, Ben thinks of the “ideal girl” as the one that “would be there for him;” someone that “could help choose [things] too.” Cora, however, is not on board with that idea. She doesn’t support a version of the future where Ben “gets to call all the shots and [she] gets to sit there.” This disagreement points back to the discrepancy between the two aforementioned versions of adulthood: Cora wants to exist in a space where she can safely express herself and Ben seeks a preconceived, simple version of family life.
This difference in attitude is also indicative when Cora makes fun of the suburbs. Ben doubts Cora’s maturity by claiming that life isn’t about “playing around 24/7. People have actual jobs, actual things that they need to do” and this is why he “need[s] to know that [she’s] serious.” Cora’s reply: “I am seriously the most serious person you have ever seen seriously, seriously serious” is indicative not only of her innocence and her stubbornness, but also of her disagreement with Ben. For her, being an adult doesn’t equal being serious all the time.
Even if their perceptions of life are miles apart, however, they end up realizing that obsessing over the future is futile, and they embrace the now and each other. Perhaps they eventually realize that sometimes living in the now is better than planning the after. No matter how many scenarios they might recreate in their heads, tomorrow will always be unexpected. It’s all perfectly summed up in Cora’s metaphor about swimming too deep: “it’s like you’re in the deep end and you can’t swim and you were so sure you could swim with the big kids.” Their obsession over the future doesn’t prepare them to tame it; it only destroys their youth.
Thus, the film’s ending provides it’s audience with a bittersweet memory of being young and innocent. Perhaps the memory isn’t triggered by any verbal stimuli; it may come to the fore by the unforgettable sensation of serenity. Regardless, it succeeds in reminding us what it means to be young.