"Will you still like me?"
"You're my husband."
There's a moment early on in "Emily" in which an argument that could have been mostly philosophical turns into a deconstruction of an entire marriage. It's harrowing to watch, because it's like witnessing a massive boulder rolling down a hill toward something precious and irreplaceable. The boulder starts off so slowly it's hard to imagine no one stopping it from causing all of the destruction before it happens but before you know it it's far too late.
Emily and Nathan have been married for three years. They're both Christians who even host a weekly Bible study in their living room—except that now, Nathan no longer feels connected to God. He even says that when he prays he feels like he's speaking to a brick wall. That massive difference between them is part of the thematic shading of the entire film.
Nathan now feels bad because Emily married a Christian man, which he no longer identifies as, so he thinks she'll be miserable continuing on in their marriage. He feels like he maybe never even was as Christian as he was supposed to be, pretending to be much more devoted than he really was. Emily wants Nathan to search for God in his life again, but that's the last thing he wants to do.
"Emily" is a compelling look at a marriage falling apart under the weight of expectation. In some ways, the film could have played like Christian propaganda or as an agnostic reaction to the glut of Christian films such as "The Case for Christ" and "God's Not Dead," released by major studios. Instead, "Emily" seems more interested in how we communicate with those we love than with passing judgment on organized religion.
The performances from Rachael Perrell Fosket as Emily and Michael Draper as Nathan are strong, giving the film less of a theatrical feel and something closer to a chamber piece. It's always easy to follow their train of thought because they play so much emotion in their eyes.
Writer/director Ryan Graves has created a powerful film of ideas that feels designed to raise some fascinating arguments among couples. Men and women are both going to find different meanings with the film. Some will be completely behind Nathan as he burns down his life in his self-imposed identity crisis, while others will find comfort in Emily's faith... not just in God but also in her marriage.
It's remarkable that a micro-budget indie out of Portland can inspire such insight, but Graves and company have crafted something much bigger than its modest beginnings would suggest.
Dir. Ryan Graves
Tin Pan Theater