Thomas is a quiet, awkward teenager who works at the hardware store. Amelia is an eccentric, confident teenager shopping at the hardware store. You can see where this is going.
However, as cliché as it may sound, "The Checkout Line" is quite far from your average love story. Fourth-year media arts student Ethan Hanson wrote and directed the film, creating a story about "passion," "destiny" and most importantly "love." These words are heard throughout the film from the eerie voice of a narrator. However, it's not just a story about passion, destiny and love but also of abuse, violence and murder.
The 13-minute film begins with a police officer asking Thomas for an opinion on pink paint samples for his mother. Reserved Thomas doesn't give much of an opinion on the paint samples, so the police officer carries on his way. Then, Amelia enters the checkout line.
She purchases a multitude of items, including a saw and rubber gloves. Thomas jokingly asks if she's planning a murder and she replies with a straight face that she plans to kill her mom. Amelia leaves the store but also leaves behind her receipt with her phone number on it.
Cut from the hardware store to Thomas's house. As Thomas is watching TV, his father walks in drunk. As the scene progresses, we find out his father is abusive and burns Thomas with cigarettes.
After enduring the abuse, we see an old lady watching across the street as Thomas runs from his home to call Amelia on a pay phone, asking her to dinner. At dinner Thomas asks her how she killed her mom and the pair's twisted bond commences. They show each other scars on their arms from their abusive parents, and from then on, they're on a mission.
Hanson's love for Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino is seen within the stylized imagery throughout the film. An enticing, irresistible aesthetic is created within a boring hardware store through carefully chosen music, shot variety and costume design. Little cues put in place throughout the film such as pay phones and older cars show us that the film is not set in present day.
Murder planning continues as the film goes on. As they act on their plan, beginning at Thomas's house, the same old lady is watching with a careful eye through her window. Without giving too much away, the police officer later plays a role in the teenagers' evil scheme, due to a connection with the watchful neighbor.
Hanson's "A Checkout Line" is far from amateur, in contrast the writer-director's young age. The short film is simply brilliant and disturbingly fulfilling. The blunt dialogue along with the pleasing imagery creates humor and beauty in the midst of a terrible, awful love story.