A frustrated couple goes to a therapist to solve a unique intimacy problem. | Polyvore

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Polyvore is used with permission from Christian Elder. Learn more at https://christianelder.org.

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Elliot and Lydia are a long-term couple whose relationship has hit some stumbling blocks. Hoping to move forward, they start seeing a relationship counselor named Carol. At first, things seem fairly standard: Lydia hasn’t been as passionate with Elliot, due to an outside interest named Warren.

But as Carol, the therapist, questions the couple more, what emerges is a much more tangled situation involving "open relating": they’re "poly-digital." The digital-only approach to open relationships is supposed to keep things simple — but instead, it’s led to a bigger emotional mess in their real life.

Directed and written by Christian Elder, this sharp and sly short relationship comedy takes the classic narrative of a restless, dissatisfied partnership, intersecting it with the increasingly surreal waters of a digital-first life. The result is a nimble, well-paced and entertaining story that offers recognizable emotional situations, funny dialogue and relatable characters, but with a smart, witty twist that proves surprisingly thought-provoking.

The brisk storytelling sets up the situation efficiently and economically, taking advantage of the format of the therapy session to get to the heart of the matter quickly: a couple who have lost their passion and spark in the bedroom. At first, we’re led to believe it’s an outside influence, but in reality, Elliot and Lydia have embarked on a strange new frontier in relationships, where they can pursue outside interests, but only online.

As the couple, actors Rachel Middleton and Jeremy Luke are believably at odds with one another, with Lydia as checked-out and distracted and Elliot as frustrated and angry, though they hit the comic beats with ease. Much of the humor lies in the writing, which conjures an increasingly outlandish situation, made even more complicated by each party’s own issues and foibles. To get into the nitty-gritty might put us in spoiler territory, but as crazy as it all seems, it becomes more believable as viewers get more background on the ins and outs of the "polydigi" lifestyle and this particular couple’s foibles.

Smart, compelling and irreverent, "Polyvore" recognizes how our digital lives have become more real than our actual lived experiences sometimes. As Elliot and Lydia hash out the mess they’ve made of their relationship and re-trace what steps led to their current impasse, what emerges overall are interesting questions on how digital selves can both offer and insulate us from sometimes uncomfortable intimacy and how they let us project fantasies, but sometimes at the cost of enjoying reality. It makes the film an enjoyably farcical portrait of a dysfunctional relationship, as well as a surprisingly thoughtful examination of how being so online all the time affects the most intimate corners of our lived realities.

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A frustrated couple goes to a therapist to solve a unique intimacy problem. | Polyvore
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