Review of Being Here

Review by Sabrina Vetter
Developmentally Edited by Alexandra Hidalgo
Copy Edited and Posted by Jennifer Bell

Being Here (2019). 19 min. Directed by Sydney O’Haire. Starring Mélisa Breiner-Sanders, Carin Silkaitis, Shariba Rivers.

Joy (Carin Silkaitis) and Charlie (Mélisa Breiner-Sanders) sit next to each other in Being Here (directed by Sydney O’Haire).
Joy (Carin Silkaitis) and Charlie (Mélisa Breiner-Sanders) in Being Here

In Being Here, writer-director Sydney O’Haire looks at the world of addicts in recovery. In the first few seconds of the short, main character Charlie (Mélisa Breiner-Sanders, who also co-produced the film) is peeing into a cup as part of regular drug testing. Handing over her cup to the nurse supervising her actions, Charlie directs a sarcastic “Happy Friday” at her. The scene introduces the audience right away into the normality of this situation for the main character. Three months into her stay at the Midwest Recovery Center, Charlie’s days are marked by routine: drug tests, group therapy, one-on-one sponsor meetings, and monitoring at all times (to the extent that she needs a pass just to use the phone). Such routine is established for addicts to help them recover from the spiral they find themselves in. What can seem like a tedious way to spend your days is revealed to very much be a comfort zone for Charlie. Therefore, when counselor Rachel (Shariba Rivers) reveals that Charlie’s stay will come to an end soon, assuring the patient that she has made all important steps on the road to recovery and no longer needs to be supervised 24/7, it comes as a shock to Charlie. 

Just because doctors, therapists, and counselors think she is ready to leave doesn’t mean the patient does so as well. From this set-up onwards, O’Haire asks the audience whether there is an end to recovery, and, if there is, who says so? In this way, the writer-director dares the viewers to face the dilemmas of addiction and, in the end, focuses on what it takes to cope. What is engaging about O’Haire’s film is its demand to make the audience realize how many obstacles block the way on the road to recovery, while also challenging how we as a society look at addiction. This remarkable film contemplates that there is no true end to addiction that can be achieved with a specific time frame in mind. O’Haire doesn’t give straight answers to many questions surrounding addition but rather offers insight into how it is oftentimes thought of as a singular process while it is actually a journey with an uncertain outcome.  

Two women are central to Charlie’s recovery story during her stay at the Center: fellow patient Joy (Carin Silkaitis) and her counselor Rachel. The friendship between Charlie and Joy is presented as particularly important during Charlie’s recovery process. In her script, O’Haire isn’t interested in giving too much detail on why the women ended up in recovery but rather leaves hints here and there about the traumatic experiences which have fueled their addiction. Joy is inspired by the real person Brenda Joy Butler, to whom the film is dedicated, and the character’s background story—when compared to Charlie’s—allows the audience to see how stories of addicts and their affliction can both differ and share similarities. By only giving us glimpses into the circumstances that led to Charlie and Joy’s substance abuse, O’Haire seems more interested in conveying the two characters’ emotions. In order to do so, she presents successive scenes during which closeups allow the audience to zoom in on the actresses’ faces and how they make their characters’ struggles come to life. Charlie fluctuates from fear to anger to sadness within a single scene. Being Here is thereby driven by the actors’ performances. 

While the relationship between Charlie and Joy is very much influenced by shared experiences as recovering addicts, Charlie also benefits from and depends on Rachel’s counseling insight. While Joy supports Charlie as a friend, Rachel has a professional relationship with Charlie. She might be an outsider to the experience of addiction but, as a counselor closely working with addicts, she helps her patients on medical and emotional levels. She looks at recovery from a practical angle: it is a step-by-step process with a specific progress.

Being Here is a story about women supporting women and focuses on how such support comes from different directions. The film is about finding new friends (and a surrogate family) with shared experiences, who allow for expressing emotions ranging from sadness to failure to trauma to anger. Friends who offer a space filled with understanding, encouragement, and humor. Since O’Haire believes that recovery is not a singular event but a journey, she never claims that Charlie is no longer an addict once she is told to leave the center but rather is interested in showing how to cope with trauma and addiction. “You were coping. It wasn’t the most productive way, but at least you weren’t using again,” Rachel tells Charlie, when the latter admits to having broken established rules at the Center.

The film’s emotional story is rounded off by the soundtrack by Fae Nageon de Lestang and Paul Bedal, which accelerates the dramatic events taking place in the Center but also emphasizes moments of hope. The song “I’ll Be There” by Fae Nageon de Lestang is featured in a scene about Charlie’s struggle deciding to leave rehab and gives the audience the chance to gain insight into the character’s inner turmoil. It’s a calm score which fits the short’s story greatly. It is also this very calmness that makes this film about a heavy topic an engaging view. The film’s focus on friendship and family is a source of strength for the main character as much it is for the audience. While we are left with new ways to look at old debates surrounding addiction and recovery, O’Haire also asks us to look at people close to us in real-life and realize that we are here to support each other—especially in dire situations. The film therefore asks us to recognize those who help us through the hardest of times and how they do so with compassion, patience, and by simply being (t)here. 

You can watch Being Here on Omeleto and learn more about the film on its website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can connect with actor and producer Mélisa Breiner-Sanders on her website, Twitter, and Instagram. Connect with director Sydney O’Haire on her website, Twitter, and Instagram. Connect with Sabrina on her profile.