Zoe Lister-Jones’s Band Aid is the story of a couple, Ben (Adam Pally) and Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones), that attempts to save their marriage by forming a band, channeling their anger into song. Roughly midway through the film, they’re in the midst of another argument during rehearsal. Egged on by their neighbor turned drummer, Dave (Fred Armisen), to develop a song on the spot, Ben and Anna vent their frustrations via an extended punk-rock improvisation, with their moods subsequently shifting from anger to exhilaration. The scene functions as a glimpse into the creative process as a form of therapy, and epitomizes Lister-Jones’s fixation on how people charging into new situations, like the series of blistering musical performances at the heart of this film, can open up heretofore unknown avenues in their relationships to one another.
At its most honest, Band Aid wrestles with the reluctance or unwillingness of women to fulfill ostensibly requisite roles, such as motherhood. Anna routinely fields comments from others as to why she doesn’t have children, and can’t bring herself to address her lingering trauma after suffering a miscarriage and how that makes her hesitant to have kids. Lister-Jones, as writer-director, adds depth to Anna in how the character’s silence stems from falsely believing that her miscarriage was her fault, which is one other facet that causes strain on her marriage. Rather than conform to a conventional expectation, Anna cathartically breaks her silence about her sadness, with Ben’s support, via the easiest way she’s come to know how: by singing it.
Sadly, all the characters that surround Ben and Anna either function as explicit thematic signposts or broadly comedic figures. Ben’s mother (Susie Essman), in her one scene, exists only to provide sage wisdom to Ben as he questions whether or not to give up on his marriage. Armisen’s recovering sex addict is an effective fountain of comic relief, yet the actor’s presence here isn’t exactly of a piece with an otherwise naturalistic film. But Ben and Anna ultimately remain a complex depiction of a relationship in turmoil, and Lister-Jones wisely never contrives a complete reconciliation between the two. In the film’s deceptively conventional conclusion, as Ben and Anna brainstorm song ideas while noticing a mundane chore (a leaking ceiling) that would have previously made them bicker, Lister-Jones implies that their marriage would crumble entirely if the couple lost their creative musical spark.