There are few genres as quintessential to the American film canon as the road trip movie. These movies are usually reserved for sad white men who are living out their Jack Kerouac fantasies of life on the road. Maybe Someday queers the road trip genre and makes space for a different kind of story about love, loss, and change.
Michelle Ehlen wrote, directed, and stars in Maybe Someday, a tender and vulnerable story of upheaval that is not a teenager’s coming-of-age story. Jay (Ehlen) is already of age. She’s driving from Connecticut to Los Angeles in the wake of separating from her wife, Lily. In the middle of the country, she stops to visit Jess (Shaela Cook), her best friend (and crush) from high school. Jess finds Jay a job photographing the local comedy group, where she meets Tommy (Chad Steers). Tommy’s gregariousness and Jay’s tough exterior make them quite the odd couple.
The film shows both present-day Jay and Jess and their high-school-aged selves, and the flashbacks add a richness to their current dynamic. The casting of these younger versions is perfect in the physical sense, but also in the essence of who Jay and Jess are. Young Jay captures the type of queer longing that is specific to being a closeted teenager. It’s heartachingly honest and entirely too familiar to those who have lived through similar circumstances.
Jay and Tommy are two lost people who are hoping the universe will show them how to steer their lives. It’s always the unexpected person and the unanticipated path that lead to the biggest change. Jay and Tommy’s conversations range from the goofy (the campfire scene stands out) to the serious (debating if love is real). It’s a testament to the strength of their fast friendship that they can span this array of topics within weeks of first meeting each other. Every once in a while two people meet and they just click. It’s rare, exciting, and impossible to understand until it’s happened to you.
Maybe Someday is a goodbye of sorts; a cathartic letting go of the past to make way for the future. It’s painful to leave the people and dreams behind, but it’s essential for any semblance of growth. Most of the time, the future is just a hazy destination somewhere in the distance that may very well be a mirage. Rarely is there a clear path forward. It’s only when we move down that road with purpose that the hazy destination becomes crystal clear.