The Atlantic Selects
In 100 Texts, the Story of Love, Heartbreak, and an Unplanned Baby
Jan 24, 2018
When Victoria Mapplebeck found her decades-old Nokia phone hidden in the back of a kitchen drawer, she was forced to relive a story she had worked hard to forget.
“I realized I’d unwittingly archived a three-year message thread between myself and my son’s father,” Mapplebeck told The Atlantic. “The story of our relationship unfolded in just 100 texts: how we met, dated for a few months, broke up, and subsequently dealt with an unplanned pregnancy.”
Mapplebeck’s short documentary, 160 Characters, is a poignant excavation of memory through technology. Over the three years that Mapplebeck and her son’s absentee father were in communication, conversation was increasingly replaced by text messages. Like an emotional archaeologist, she chronicles her former lover’s presence and makes his absence felt using only his digital remains.
“It felt like a digital hit and run,” Mapplebeck said. “I began this project with a personal story, but perhaps it also explores a universal story—one in which we increasingly expect more from technology and less from each other.”
For Mapplebeck, making a film so personal was an exercise in vulnerability and, ultimately, catharsis. “I didn't want to come across as a victim and neither did I want to cast my son’s father as a pantomime villain,” she said. “The situation we found ourselves in was complex. I'm sad about it and sometimes I'm angry.” Over the years, Mapplebeck has witnessed the psychological consequences for her son of his father’s decision not to be part of his life. “It’s been hard at times, but I didn't want the film to be overwhelmed by those emotions,” she continued. “I felt it was important to create space for viewers to come to their own conclusions.”
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Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.