Judy is in Boston and needs to get to Amherst, 93 miles away, but does not have a car. Emma also needs to get from Boston to Amherst. If Emma drives an old Ford Focus with a cassette tape player and splits the cost of the gas with Judy, how long will it take for each of them to make a decision that could change their lives?
No, this isn't a story problem; it's the premise for Split Costs. Emma (Mela Hudson) needs someone to help pay for the gas to get her to Amherst to see her mother, Brenda (Jane Harte), so she can hit Brenda up for more money. Emma's having a tough time financially, to say the least. Fortunately, Judy (Tori Hall) also wants to get to Amherst to surprise her girlfriend, Helen, for Helen's birthday, since she wasn't able to get to Boston. They stumble across each other online, and a deal is struck.
Emma's old Ford Focus isn't in the greatest shape, though, so the trip isn't exactly a speedy one. Minor repairs are made, lunch is eaten, and they go their separate ways. Until each of them discovers something shocking waiting for them, and their lives hinge on what they decide to do in a split-second.
It's a good, taut drama that uses its 24 minutes very well. The characters chat like strangers embarking on a long car ride do, and when they start to relax and talk more like friends it's utterly convincing. It's all realistic, in fact -- the things that happen to upend Judy and Emma's lives are terrible, especially in Emma's case, but they happen every day. The whole film is a slice of life -- in the best and most interesting sense, since I think 'slice of life' has gotten a bad rep lately.
I'll give it four and a half out of five. Judy's shock isn't a shock to the audience, so that could have used more tension, but the whole film draws you in simply because it is the sort of thing that could happen to you, your sister, or your best friend. The characters are likable and genuine, the dialogue hits all the right notes, and despite the short time frame -- the action covers less than a day in their lives -- by the end you feel you know the characters. And despite being virtual strangers, by the end they've helped each other out more than anyone else possibly could have. For every horror story about a ride share, there's a story like this one to remind you that not all people are awful.
(At imdb here.)