This is question that is partly answered by the amazing short film Imaginary Circumstances.
Two friends, both recently dumped, meet for donuts, where they discuss their problems with dating, and then come up with an idea - pre-breaking-up. They decide that it is too difficult and painful to go through the break-up at the end of a relationship, so they must do it at the beginning.
And thus, after a change of location, they have it out; two people, with different experiences, interact with one another, breaking up before they had even begun, relieving their own emotional pains.
This is one of those shorts with a turn, when you find yourself looking at the characters, listening to their words, and realizing that these are things you've said, or more often, thought. These are real issues that are brought up, and the script is insanely perfect in the ways that it makes the characters walk up to what we know is a cliff, and the truths of our feelings in relationships, the ones that we keep locked away, are nothing if not a massive granite cliff, and then jump.
Only, the stakes are incredibly low. These two are not in a real relationship. They are talking about feelings that apply to their other relationships, not to the one that they are pretending to be striving for. The person on which they are charging on steeds of former heartbreak is not the one sitting next to them. The anger, the hurt, is being dumped, but not without reciprication. This is, perhaps, the single most healthy thing that these two could possibly do; they are unpacking, unloading, and providing comfort by not denying that the past didn't happen, that they aren't whole, that what they went through wasn't real. These two are being thoroughly honest by playing out their hurts.
At 11 minutes, this is perfectly paced, well-structured, incredibly well-written, and brilliantly acted. Director Emma Koenig seems to have given the actors enough room to explore their characters, and the shooting feels less cinematic than immediate, as if they are shooting a raging fire that threatens not only the camera, but also the viewer. This is a film where the extremity of emotional outpouring is damn-near infectuous. It can not be over-stated how excellent actors Maya Eskrine and Jeff Ward are at not only embodying their characters, but playing the shift between thought experiment and rage therapy session.
When I was putting together the theming for Shorts Program 3, I had just re-watched Imaginary Circumstances for the fifth or sixth time. I knew that this would be a film that would make an impact crater on the minds of every viewer. I looked over my notes, and found a phrase I had written down about the short that I knew was the perfect tagline for the program - Nothing is as it appears, but the shadows may be the truth.
You can see Imaginary Circumstances as a part of Shorts Program 3 - The Reality of Illusion shouwing WED 2/28 at 2:15PM at 3Below in beautiful Downtown San Jose, THU 3/1 at 6:00PM in Redwood City, on FRI 3/2 at 5:15PM in Redwood City, and SUN 3/4 at 8:45PM at 3Below.