Long Story Short is a funny, charming rom com that celebrates not wasting a moment of life. As the pandemic starts to subside, the timing of this one is fortuitous and it definitely won’t feel like a waste of time.
Teddy (Rafe Spall, The Ritual) has an A+ meet cute with Leanna (Zahra Newman) on New Year’s Eve. The attraction and chemistry is undeniable and Teddy eventually pops the question while dragging his feet on setting an actual wedding date.
In a chance encounter at a cemetery, Teddy meets a friendly, talkative stranger (Noni Hazlehurst) who encourages him not to waste time. She suggests Teddy ignore his procrastinating impulses and get married ASAP.
To further sell her suggestion, the stranger says she’ll send Teddy and Leanna a wedding present. Teddy probably should be more concerned with how a stranger would get his mailing address, but that’s a different movie entirely.
The day after the wedding, Teddy is startled to (eventually) discover a year has passed and Leanna already has his anniversary present ready…along with a soon to arrive baby. Naturally, Teddy is fully discombobulated. Just as he gets his head wrapped around the idea, another year has already arrived.
Initially, it’s frustrating that Teddy takes so long to understand what’s happening. He wastes several years trying to make sense of how years are flying by in a matter of minutes. Your phone is your friend Teddy.
Teddy’s failure to have an anniversary present set becomes a running gag. Leanna never forgets and eventually just assumes Teddy won’t remember. The payoff saves the setup, which doesn’t seem fair since time-hopping Teddy doesn’t have the time to actually go to a store and get a gift before leaping another year. Of course, he could just plan ahead and have Amazon deliver the appropriate gift every year once he gets a grasp on the situation…
While Teddy never fully cracks the anniversary gift code, he does start incorporating his best friend, Sam (Ronny Chieng, Crazy Rich Asians), into his plans to prep for the future. Sam is the standard pal in these scenarios. Chieng gives him some nice quirks to make for a fun straight man for Teddy’s increasingly zanier plans.
A future encounter with Sam is one of the film’s most touching moments and pays off what seemed like a throwaway joke.
As the years progress, Teddy understandably starts losing Leanna. Considering the snippets of their life together we see, Leanna probably should have left him years ago. And over the years, Teddy’s relationship with their daughter, Talulah (Cheyenne Gunn), seems destined for a similar path.
Easily the film’s biggest failure is director/writer Josh Lawson (Mortal Kombat) never establishes Workaholic Teddy. We’re repeatedly told Teddy is this career-focused guy who never takes a moment to smell the roses yet there’s no opening act or scene to support that notion he values money over family and friends.
Considering that’s the basis for Teddy’s current dilemma, it would have been nice to see “Bad Teddy” so his ultimate redemption would be sweeter. This would be like starting A Christmas Carol with Scrooge meeting the ghosts without the benefit of seeing how crappy he treated Bob Cratchit. Sure, we can fill in the gaps, but that shouldn’t be necessary.
Yes, there’s some narrative and unavoidable pacing issues due to the premise, but Spall and Newman more than make up for it. Spall has terrific comedic timing and he proves game in realistically conveying the emotions Teddy would have in undergoing these various scenarios and rapid changes.
Spall is an impressively versatile performer whether holding his own in a face off with John Hamm in a memorable Black Mirror episode or off in the woods fighting for survival in The Ritual. He proves just as solid and engaging as rom com lead.
Newman is effortlessly charming. Leanna could have become the bad guy in this scenario, but Newman brings a warmth, vivaciousness and gracious nature to suggest Teddy could still win her back. Dena Kaplan has an important role as Teddy’s ex-girlfriend, Becka, who avoids turning into a cliché.
Long Story Short has a lot of heart, just the right amount of humor to make you laugh without feeling silly and some charming, engaging performances.
Review: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Saban Films
For another unique love story, check out Serendipity on Amazon.