Jake (Yuri Rutman) and Emma (Jenny Diamico) are a couple living in Chicago dealing with an unusual personal issue. Emma has siderodromophilia; she cannot get sexually aroused unless she is on or near moving trains. This takes a toll as Jake desperately wants to have a normal functioning relationship. However, Emma continues to pull him into her strange desires.
Trained takes a look at a condition never explored in cinema, and does so in a simple if heightened manner. This is a short, not even 20 minutes long, and outside of a psychiatrist who befriends Jake played by Jason Elkins (who’s only in two or three scenes), it only focuses on our two leads. Despite its rather odd subject matter, it takes it seriously and the hyper-realism of the piece really depicts how difficult it can be to love someone with a mental illness.
The leads really draw you into their story. You can feel Jake’s conflict throughout as his attempts to find normalcy are viscerally frustrating. Writer/director Yuri Rutman truly puts himself into this strange scenario and makes it feel relatable. Jenny Diamico is suitably haunting and evocative as Emma. She truly pulls off how worn down she is, contrasting with the sheer euphoria of her fulfilling her predilections.
There’s some great shot compositions that really get across how isolated and trapped the two leads are. Cinematographer Scott Drucker (who also worked as producer) has an adept hand on how to go big with a small budget and when to keep things intimate and boxed in. There’s a great final shot before the climax involving Emma that comes to mind, but also the scenes where the couple go outside and when Jake sees the psychiatrist. You really feel the relative freedom compared to where their intimate moments tends to occur. There’s a rawness to the sex scenes which helps punctuate their dysfunction.
If there’s any real issues, it’s that some of the audio mixing is a bit flubbed in places. Sometimes the score (which is great) can overtake the actor’s speech, or recordings sound like they are cut in from a different track. Stuff like this is hard to avoid when you’re working low budget (trust me-I praise the ground of every person who chooses to go into sound design as a career), but it took me out of certain important scenes. Also Jake has a big moment about living life that landed a bit flat.
Trained is an interesting little short with a great sense of moodiness and captures the overwrought feelings of dealing with the dysfunctions of mental illness. The actors are compelling and really commit, it’s extremely well shot and edited, and tackles what could be a really farcical premise with the weight and reverence it deserves. It may not be for everyone, and I feel the audio issues drag it down, but it’s well worth giving a watch. It deftly shows what taboos cinema can break through.
Trained is available on Amazon Prime in the US and UK. For further details, follow Trained on Facebook. You can also find out more by following writer/director/star Yuri Rutman on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo.
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