The Long and the Tall of It.
by Gerald Saul

discussing Don Cornelius's "Accidental Reunion".

In his new film "Accidental Reunion" Don Cornelius addresses issues concerning his generation (Generation X) through his depictions of two women who have followed different paths since high school. The characters are, as many of us are, ashamed of their past and afraid of their future. They are ill equipped to live solely in the present, which leads them, and us, to make many errors in judgement.

Before the two characters meet, we see them as their grown up, (late twenties), selves. One seems to be a typical baby boomer, concerned with 'adult' matters such as work, property and success. The other could be, based on her lack of confidence and ambition, a teenager. Though each is at least partially stereotypical, I found that they were both believable. I know many people who are like them. In fact, I know almost no people in that age group who do not fit into one of those categories.
When the "accident" plot device brings them together and they recognise each other, their facade is broken and the two must scramble to adjust to their old identities. They are, as they were in high school, foolhardy and irresponsible. One displays her unscrupulousness, the other her naivete.

Once re-separated but awaiting a second reunion, we are shown conversations which reveal their expectations of the future. For the sake of drama, the future is discussed not with each other but with their companions away from the accident scene.
In this structure, Don has arranged for us to analyze the past (high school), present (job, personal interaction) and future (personal relationships, family) of the two women. One seems to be a success, as her past and present lack difficulties. It is implied that she got her own way in high school and she has continued to do so as an adult; she has the good job and the pet boyfriend. The other is meek, has no job, no job prospects, and is separated from her husband. She seems to be a failure.
It appears that this pattern of success versus failure is going to continue, that bully tactics will yet again pay off. However, when the two talk in the final scene, the two women look at each other as see the future. The "success" still treats her romantic relationships day by day, not unlike high school; she realizes that by having skilfully avoided failure, she has deprived herself of the personal growth that the other has gained. Suddenly, instead of assuming herself to be the superior of the two, it becomes clear that they are both, in their own ways, alone. She acknowledges their unity by admitting the truth about the accident to the police.

The film is well constructed and flows along smoothly and quickly. Too quickly perhaps, as I find my greatest problem with the film is its length; it is too short. Given more time, we could find out more about the two supporting characters who both seemed interesting. More importantly, the passing of wisdom from one character to the other is one way, and that is never truly the case. The "success" will drive away a improved, albeit poorer ($) person. Perhaps the "failure" learned that one can still rely on others in times of crisis, but this was weak at best. By expanding the ending, the breaking of behaviour for the successful woman could have come across as seeming more difficult and so the film would not have concluded on such a utopic note.

But I suppose it is time we had a utopia of our own. Only recently through labels such as 'Generation X' has this generation found any unity. Unity might keep us from drowning. We're all in the same boat and word's out that it's the SS Minnow.

Gerald Saul 2005