Winner of a Student Academy Award in 2016, Alicja Jasina’s Once Upon a Line is a sweet seven-minute animation looking at love at first sight and the aftermath of such an experience. Following a man, stuck in his dreary daily routine, this University of Southern California production uses a fun line-based aesthetic to breathe some fresh air into a well-explored storyline.
Narratively, Once Upon a Line follows a pretty conventional romantic path. Man meets women, they fall in love, things are never the same. It’s a short that wears its story arc on its sleeve, with its rises and falls clearly signposted and perfectly-placed, but although the plot is fun and engaging it was the aesthetic here that truly won us over.
With the titular line in Jasina’s short not only serving as the basis for a clever fairytale pun in its name, but as metaphor for life and the path we take through it, it’s visually that the line feels most important as it drives the film forward, injecting it with energy and direction.
Constantly travelling from left-to-right, the line takes our protagonist from home to work, it’s where he eats, sleeps and hangs his clothes, until “she” (neither character is named) comes along. And this is where Jasina starts to have some fun.
With those straight black-and-white lines suddenly injected with colour and curves, Once Upon a Line’s smitten lead-character suddenly sees his once consistent, unwavering path through life full of twists and turns. Almost instantly after his interest is reciprocated the line begins to swirl, leap and pulsate on the screen and it’s hard not to lose yourself in the dizzying effect of it all, as story and style start working together in true harmonious fashion.
I don’t usually get swept up by sentimentality in films, but there’s something about the portrayal of that instant attraction in Once Upon a Line that really hits home for me. Anyone lucky enough to know that feeling of an all-consuming allure to a potential partner, will know how it takes over your life and makes it hard to think about anything else.
I hate the term ‘love at first sight’, as for me love never came that easily (until I had kids) and as someone in a long-term relationship of 15+ years, I can categorically state the start of my relationship was nothing like the whirlwind romance of Once Upon a Line. However, it’s the portrayal of “young love” in Jasina’s film that’s really stuck with me ever since I first saw it.
A feeling hard to capture on screen and difficult to recapture in life, Once Upon a Line has the ability to take you back to the intoxicating early days of a relationship or give you hope for a potential romance yet to appear and that’s a really powerful thing.