When I first encountered interactive documentary The And, a compilation of thirty frank discussions between couples of all walks of life, I knew I wanted to try the “play at home” option.
The project, named for the connecting function of “and,” is a collaboration between The Skin Deep, Noise, and filmmaker Topaz Adizes. Couples young and old, polyamorous and monogamous, straight and LGBTQ, long-term and new, were spaced 1 ft. apart in a distraction-free room and tasked with one deceptively simple exercise: communicate. The questions each couple had to answer ranged from the benign to the anxiety-inducing, such as “What is your favorite thing about me?” followed by “Am I the best sex you’ve ever had?”
The discussions are compiled into various shorts, organized by couple or by question. When you first visit the project’s website, you are prompted by a personality quiz to determine a short that would best apply to your life and relationship.
“We used a unique tagging system to build a film that would be relevant to you based on how you answer the questions. Rather than a binary system, or a static chatbot model, we did a lot of research on questionnaires and personality tests and did some really cool decision tree modeling,” Adizes told Nerve.
Every visit generates different questions, allowing you to observe different films each time.
One visit prompted me with the questions: “Which do you prefer sexually, to give or receive?” (Receive—sorry, not sorry), “What is more fun, binge-drinking or binge-watching?” (Binge-watching), “What do you want most in life, to be happy or to be in charge?” (To be happy), “Where do you put your faith, God or yourself?” (Myself). Afterward, I was faced with a 92 second short that eerily encapsulated many facets of my own long-term relationship.
Listening to several couples speak about their own relationship truths, like “we laugh every day,” “I miss the person I am with you” and “we’re still finding ourselves,” resonated far deeper with me than even the best-acted Hollywood romances.
The divided screen of each short captures simultaneous reactions, letting the viewer act as a voyeur to some pretty fucking real human expression.
Watching the short of young couple Giulia and Elijah, who ostensibly are in high school and are conflicted on where the relationship is going post-graduation, will give you, for lack of a better term, the feels. Or Cat and Keith — who are two strong personalities navigating Keith’s transition from female to male — will give you a glimpse into their relationship’s trials and tribulations, and the healing capacity of love.
A bar across the bottom of the site invites you to “grab your partner and try on your own.” Arrogantly, I assumed my partner and I would get through the home questionnaire unscathed. We’ve always been honest and forthcoming — how could this exercise be any different?
Happy, reflective questions like “What was your first impression of me?” or “When do you feel closest to me?” were easy, sweet even. But when faced with questions like “What would you do if I cheated on you?” or “Do you ever fantasize about someone else during sex?” with no ability to deflect — it was enough to make us squirm.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I participated in The And. It was eye-opening and relationship-strengthening in the context of my own relationship, and a heart-wrenching and beautiful viewing experience.