When we first meet Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) in “Band Aid,” the couple is in a state of discord, with the drip of a faulty faucet upon a sink of unwashed dishes serving as an inadvertent form of Chinese water torture. The sound echoes larger issues in their relationship, which hasn’t been quite right for a year for reasons that are spoken about only in hushed tones with close friends and family. But still, the pair has a musical way about them, their curses at each other over various trespasses delivered in a sing-songy way so as to relate to each other with passion and also, to some degree, soften the blow.
Such nuance is part of what makes Lister-Jones’ feature directorial debut, so refreshing – that, and and Lister Jones’ inspired conceit that the two start a band after realizing the putting their fights into song lyrics can be therapeutic after their proper shrink has decamped for Canada. Defying a more conventional narrative approach where the curiosity is about whether Anna and Ben will stay together, Lister-Jones takes the far more interesting route in observing just how difficult it is to keep a relationship moving forward in a positive direction after tragedy strikes. Although the idea to turn their pain into punk tracks may seem ridiculous at the start, it opens the door for a fun and unexpectedly thoughtful consideration of a pair continually putting their partner’s interests ahead of their own, at times at their personal peril, and finding the ways to make their relationship work best.
It isn’t just Anna and Ben who think the songs are actually good, but with Lucius on board as the film’s composers, the music is legitimately rousing, giving “Band Aid” a killer hook to go along with its clever baseline, and despite what rough patch they’re experiencing, the film finds a lovely rhythm as it moves beautifully through Anna and Ben’s life together, often literally as cinematographer Hilary Spera feeds off of what unfolds in front of her, constantly shifting her lens to locate the emotion in the room. While “Band Aid” is ostensibly structured around the band becoming something more than an amateur act, going through such rites of passage as bombing their first public performance, finding and then scaring off their drummer (a perfectly cast Fred Armisen) and losing touch with what made their music special, the search for harmony aurally intertwines poignantly with where Anna and Ben are as a couple.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Lister Jones, who currently appears on the CBS sitcom “Life in Pieces,” creates roles for all her actors that not only bring out their best, but adds new wrinkles to their screen personas, most notably in finding a leading man role for Pally that draws upon the hangdog appeal and unexpected dramatic chops that made him such a standout on “Happy Endings.” Lister-Jones also bestows a plum showcase for her acting abilities for herself as Anna, whose sharp sense of humor can occasionally obscure what she really means or put it all too harshly into focus. But “Band Aid” is an equally strong display of great storytelling instincts, building off her previous writing collaborations with the director Daryl Wein on such films as “Breaking Upwards” and “Lola Versus” where serious subjects could effortlessly be brought up so playfully in casual conversation without losing their import. For a film that beautifully illustrates how one can find the music in their every day lives, “Band Aid” doesn’t miss a beat, but it’ll make your heart skip one.
“Band Aid” does not yet have U.S. distribution. It will play at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25th at 12 pm at the Library Center Theatre in Park City, January 26th at 3:45 pm at the Broadway Centre Cinema in Salt Lake City, January 27th at 9:15 pm at the Library Center Theatre in Park City and January 28th at 3 pm at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre in Park City.