Have Had, and to Love a Stranger

What does it mean to be connected by blood? For some, it means everything; for others, it means much less. In director Jack Turits’ short film Have Had, a relationship connected by strands of DNA and not much else is explored in a futile attempt to make it more than just that. But as it’s made plainly clear through the course of the film, time cannot heal all wounds, and some wounds remain open forever despite our best efforts and intentions.

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The film is supported by a sparse amount brief but very revealing dialogue – the only amount of exposition the story really requires. The rest hinges on action and reaction between our two lead characters. We learn that a young woman named Grace (played by Imogen Poots) has been contacted by a young man named Adam (played by Ben Rosenfield) who is supposedly her long-lost brother. Through connecting a series of brief but telling dots, we learn that Grace’s mother left her when she was too young to remember, and started a new life and a new family. The result of this was Adam, who is now trying to build a relationship with the sister he never really had. 

Grace meets Adam at his family home, where she sleeps in the room their mother used to take up. Adam attempts to connect with Grace, but there is an ever-present disconnect. They go hiking together, but Grace watches Adam while he swims in the river. Adam tells Grace a joke their mom used to love, but Grace remains alien to her memory. The two siblings bond briefly, just before the climax of the film, dancing joyously together in Adam’s living room, until a song comes on that Adam thrashes wildly, violently to (a scene that was purposefully shot last during production to hold the emotional weight of everything shot before it). Grace leaves shortly after, but not before the two share a smile as they part ways.

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Have Had is a bittersweet exploration of lost familial love, and pain begotten through blood. The film is a quiet whirlwind of emotion, as Grace attempts to integrate herself into this “family” she was rejected from. Adam consistently makes it clear he wants to have some type of relationship with Grace, but the schism of their circumstances never quite abates. At one point, while Grace is in her mother’s room, she tries on one of her mother’s earrings. She places her hair just so and admires herself in the mirror for a moment, before her admiration lifts and she removes the earring quickly, arranging her hair back to as it was. It’s a reminder that no matter the years that have passed, and the efforts made by Adam, Grace’s mother made an irreconcilable choice that can no longer be truly rectified. It’s up to Grace to find it in her heart to forgive her mother after her death and take Adam’s metaphorical hand, but whether or not she ever will is left a mystery.

Jack Turits – whose past filmmaking is an amalgamation of eclectic commercial work, along with short films that feel similar in style and tone of Have Had – wrote the film with longtime friend Ben Rosenfield, who co-stars in the film, and together the two of them first conceptualized the idea while they were living in a basement in New York City. They had been friends with Imogen Poots (who plays Grace) for a few years, and the three friends knew they wanted to create something that Turits directed and Poots and Rosenfield starred in. “We would spend hours there [in the basement] talking about film ideas and just wasting time,” Turits said. “I told him [Rosenfield] about this idea I had to make a film about what I call ‘airplane friends.’ It’s those people you sit next to on an airplane that you hit it off with, but the relationship only lasts as long as the flight. And that’s all it should be, it should sort of live in time.” Turits says Rosenfield had his own idea for a film that “sort of lived in the same world” as Turits’, and the two began working on a script together. The script’s setting eventually changed from the initial New York City to the New Jersey suburbs where Turits and Rosenfield grew up, both of them feeling a strong urge to do so. 

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The production crew was composed of people Turits knew well and was comfortable working with, creating an atmosphere where he knew everyone involved was giving “their absolute best,” he says. “Post-production was a special experience, not only because it was the first of my films that I didn’t edit myself, but it taught me a lot about how to approach that process going forward.” Turits edited alongside Paul Snyder for two weeks and together they finalized the film, but the pair went back again when Turits believed the film could be even better, removing extra scenes and expository dialogue to make the film more about the unspoken. “This bit of distance in between that first picture lock and what ended up being the final cut was invaluable. It’s because of this experience that I now try to find some distance not only before editing begins, but also during the editing process as well.” 

On the film’s focus on body language and limited exposition, Turits believes that much can be gained from keeping things from the audience, though admits there is such a thing as – ironically – going overboard with it. “I’ve definitely taken it too far before,” he reflects. “I don’t think this approach is a blunt tool that you can somehow swing around and chisel out [Michelangelo’s] ‘David.’ You must use it carefully. Some things just need to be said.” He also doesn’t believe it’s entirely on a filmmakers’ trust versus distrust towards an audience on whether or not more exposition is given in a film. “It goes without saying, but film is a visual medium. I think a lot of filmmakers have forgotten that—a lot of audiences too; which in my opinion is dangerous for the form.” Turits approaches his work visually, and knows when dialogue is truly needed and when action can do all the talking. “As much as I would love to make a film without any dialogue, and maybe will one day, I can’t disregard that in life, people talk. But there is so much more to a conversation than just the words that are said.”

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Despite how deeply personal the film feels, Turits’ own connection to it might surprise you in that it wasn’t drawn from any real-life experiences. “But I do think that every story comes from somewhere within its author,” he counters. “So, I’m sure there’s something about these characters and what they’re going through that was shaped by my life. I just don’t know what and I don’t really care to.” He goes on to explain that “There’s the overused expression that a magician never reveals his tricks, but I think the magician maybe shouldn’t know his tricks either. We all need to maintain some sense of wonder and surprise.”

Reflecting on the film, Turits says he feels like Have Had is a zenith of a specific style and type of story he’d been previously working with, a thought which came about some time after the film had already been finished. “When Imogen’s character closes that door, it really feels like me closing the door on something as well. Giving it a little smile but also acknowledging that it’s time to move on. At least for now.” And like any artist looking back at their work, he knows there are things he might have done differently, while acknowledging that they make the film what it is (something he’s immensely proud of). “Films have this ability to capture the lives of the people who made it, who they were at that moment in time. So, I probably wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe one or two things.”


Brianna Zigler

Brianna Zigler (@briannazigs) is a freelance film journalist based in the Philadelphia suburbs. She's a staff writer for Screen Queens with bylines in Bloody Disgusting, Film School Rejects, Vague Visages, and more.