Romantic entanglements among young, attractive, progressive urbanites inform so many indie films and TV series that it's a relief to see that springboard so definitively turned on its ear. The result is "The Happy Sad," an engaging look at a pair of New York couples whose love lives intersect, crisscross, circle and backtrack in hip and provocative ways.
Marcus (LeRoy McClain) and Aaron (Charlie Barnett of TV's "Chicago Fire") are an African American couple who, after six seemingly solid years together, decide to test an open relationship. Stan (Cameron Scoggins) and Annie (Sorel Carradine, Keith's daughter),have been dating for six months; Stan wants to deepen things, Annie wants to take a break. The upshot: the straight-identifying lovers dabble in same-sex hook-ups, Annie with a vulnerable fellow schoolteacher (a fine Maria Dizzia), Stan with — whaddya know? — the newly free-to-play Marcus.
As so often happens in plots about "experimental" relationships, practicality will cloud fantasy, rules will be broken and actions will have consequences. But aside from a few missing transitional beats and one too many coincidental encounters, the picture's fluid, zigzagging sexuality and emotional high-diving prove largely credible and diverting.
Rodney Evans ("Brother to Brother"), directing a script by Ken Urban based on his stage play, juggles the strong, likable cast and the story's many intimate, potentially awkward moments with relative grace, despite the film's evident micro-budget and theatrical roots.
"The Happy Sad"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes