Uncommitted, Directed by Chandu Yarram
Uncommitted is a feature film by Chandu Yarram which takes place in New York City, where Bhishma (Ashok Chaudhary) and Julia (Ingrid Vollset) are having trouble in their relationship. Bhishma doesn’t want to commit long-term, and after a terrible divorce with his previous wife he harbours an intense aversion to marriage. ‘Right now, I’m living my life without any compromise’, he tells his friends. They don’t buy his explanations and encourage him to tie the knot with his long-time girlfriend, but he stops them, reminding them of the consequences the last time he jumped into marriage. ‘Listen, Julia’s a fine woman’, he says, ‘but I don’t trust her lawyers’.
Julia, for her part, has demonstrated a willingness to compromise above and beyond Bhishma’s willingness. He is able to live his life ‘without any compromise’ only because of her determination to do whatever it takes to keep him. This difference in expectation is becoming too much for the young couple, who talk to their friends about their hopes for next steps in the relationship. Bhishma is happy the way things are, and doesn’t want them to move forward in any way, especially not in the direction of marriage. Julia, by way of her family’s conservative outlook on marriage (she’s Catholic), wants the opposite. When Bhishma insists that they can still have the kind of relationship she wants without marriage, she is incredulous. For Julia, ‘Marriage is every girl’s dream’. For Bhismha, ‘Marriage is like a black hole’.
Things go downhill from here, and Julia packs her bags. They both find new partners. For Bhishma, the new girl is Reema (Ajna Jai), someone much more similar to him in outlook. They meet at a discussion group for objectivism — a philosophy which turns out to personify perfectly their shared view on life — and they hit it off. Like Bhishma, Reema is averse to commitment in any form. ‘Commitments hold me back’, she says. ‘I don’t even have a permanent cellphone’. From this point of departure, marriage is — thankfully for Bhishma — out of the question.
But even though the two former lovebirds are separated (Julia has returned to a former high school boyfriend), they miss each other. And even though Bhishma drove her away, he sees Julia everywhere he looks — and most disturbingly, he imagines Julia while with Reema. This happens so frequently and vividly for Bhishma that when Julia actually shows up at his apartment in tears, he ignores her completely, thinking she’s just another of his hallucinations.
The plot increases in complexity as it goes on, and while the story comes close to finding a meaningful conclusion, one gets to the end only to realise that not much has changed from the beginning. The characters just can’t seem to make up their minds when it comes to their love lives, and the film doesn’t quite find a message or a point. Bhishma swings back and forth in his relationships with Julia and Reema. The women are polar opposites — Julia the committed, conservative, faithful, hopeful wife-to-be; and Reema the no-strings-attached objectivist. With Reema, he misses Julia, with whom he had a much more loving and spontaneous relationship. One of his friends even encourages him to go back to Julia, pointing out that although people think they want someone similar to them (Reema), what really makes them happy is someone who is different from them. Bhishma seems to agree: ‘The truth is that she’s just filling a void, and we know that. I mean, in the end we all think that we want to be with the person that’s exactly like us. The truth is we end up being with the person that’s exactly opposite of us’. Sounds like the moral of the story, right? Bhishma just needs to get over his juvenile ideas about not wanting to commit to a relationship, right? Not so fast! Despite all the evidence to the contrary, and after getting back with Julia and proposing to her, Bhishma makes an about-face (again).
Inexplicably, the objectivist perspective, the one that advocates self-interest over altruism, is the one that wins out. But not before a couple of hours of confusing back-and-forth with so many competing visions of reality that it will make your head spin. The presentation of this complex story does not help, either. The film and sound editing is off-kilter, and at times, it is difficult to watch. ■
Runtime: 112 minutes
Genre: Dramatic Feature, Romance
Country: United States
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Chandu Yarram is an independent Indian-American filmmaker. A former software engineer in Hyderabad, he immigrated to the U.S. and became a filmmaker. His first feature film is The Distance Between Us, winner of Best Feature Film at The World Indie Film Festival. Uncommitted is his second feature film. Learn more about the film from its website and, its page in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), and page on Facebook. Follow Chandu Yarram on Twitter @ChanduYarram.
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: Friends discuss Julia’s relationship with Bhishma in ‘Uncommitted’.