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Anatomy of a Breakup

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Anatomy of a Breakup
Directed byMatt Hagerty
Produced byMatt Hagerty
Ashley Khakshouri
Matt Harshberger
Written byMatt Hagerty
StarringMatt Hagerty
Seth Russell
Zack Rush
Jaimie Steck
Ashley Khakshouri
Music byKenji Ueda
CinematographyMichael Babyak
Edited byGriffin Devine
Ludic Pictures
Distributed byAmazon Video
Release date
September 22, 2017
Running time
17 minutes
CountryUnited States of America

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Anatomy of a Breakup is a 2017 US comedy short film written and directed by Matt Hagerty and distributed by Amazon Video[1].

The film makes use of experimental cinematic techniques, a circular nonlinear narrative, fast-paced repartee, and a percussive score to narrate the thought process of a heartbroken and indecisive college freshman, AJ Fitzpatrick, as he considers the conflicting and increasingly preposterous advice of his competitive fraternity brothers.


After being dropped by his sorority queen girlfriend Ashton Kay, AJ Fitzpatrick reflects on the romantic advice he received from two of his Psi Alpha fraternity brothers.

The Drak, a hard-drinking law student, recommends that AJ maximize his chances of reconciliation by drinking Yuenglings at the fraternity bar, and attempting to determine the "point of no return" of his failed relationship. Cam Holland, a gregarious lounge lizard, recommends that AJ forget Ashton entirely, and instead seek revenge on her by going out with a number of other girls, from Ashton's sorority sisters, to strippers, and even prostitutes.

As Cam and The Drak campaign for AJ's support of their respective philosophies in increasingly disparate ways, Ashton surprises AJ with a text message apology. Unsure of how to manage the unexpected contact, AJ approaches Mia Madoni, Ashton's sorority sister and Cam's "high society" girlfriend. Mia, seeing AJ as entitled, and recognizing that there must be two sides to the story, refuses to help his case.

Dismissing his friends' advice entirely, AJ invites Ashton to discuss their relationship in person. Ashton agrees, but in a series of first-person jump cuts, reiterates her desire to remain broken up.

Now even more distraught than before, AJ decides that he wants to give up on Ashton and take Cam up on his offer to meet other girls. Disgusted by this decision, The Drak manipulates AJ into paralysis by analysis, causing him to faint. Finally having hit "rock bottom", AJ accepts that he is still in love with Ashton, and realizes that he must admit wrong-doing and seek a "point of no return" after all. The Drak is therefore the "winner" of the "breakup battle" with Cam.

Circling back to the frame narrative, AJ stares at the ceiling, still indecisive, and still unsure of how to proceed.

Style and narrative structure[edit]

The extradiegetic narrative, which begins at the chronological end of the film, narrates AJ's thought process as he considers his friends' advice. The "breakup battle" between Cam and The Drak, therefore, is presented out of chronological order to dramatize the nonlinear structure of human thought.[2]

The film, accordingly, makes use of a subjective, unreliable first-person perspective. As a result, AJ and Ashton are never seen in the same frame together, and Ashton talks directly to the camera when she addresses AJ.

Anatomy of a Breakup is divided into a prologue, five "chapters", and three "Breakup Battle" interstitials, which feature Cam and The Drak delivering their competing post-breakup advice directly to the camera. Nine total segments constitute the film:

  1. Prologue (The Breakup)
  2. The Drak, Cam and Mia
  3. Brother Breakup Battle: Round 1
  4. The Third-to-Last Chapter: Poisoned Muthafuck'n Mercury
  5. Brother Breakup Battle: Round 2
  6. The Penultimate Chapter: Wait and Hope
  7. Brother Breakup Battle: Round 3
  8. Epilogue: A New Adventure Out of It
  9. Chapter One


The film originated on a Valentine's Day night in 2016, when Matt Hagerty was a twenty-year-old undergraduate at Cornell University taking a gap year in Los Angeles. Tired of compulsively refreshing the Facebook page of a girl he was upset over, Hagerty deleted his account and devoted the rest of that Valentine's Day night to writing dialogue that would form the basis of Anatomy of a Breakup.

Seth Russell auditioned for The Drak with Richard Schiff, the Emmy-winning star of The West Wing, reading Hagerty's role. Schiff likened Hagerty's writing to that of his former boss on The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin, and strongly encouraged Russell, his nephew, to audition for the part. Hagerty credits Schiff's praise for giving him the ambition to make the film more than just a vehicle for "getting SAG-AFTRA cards"[3].

Since the final seventeen-minute shooting script of Anatomy of a Breakup was forty pages (about three times the usual pacing of a screenplay), Hagerty made the entire cast watch His Girl Friday prior to shooting to get used to delivering overlapping dialogue. To ensure that the speedy dialogue was comprehensible, Hagerty, inspired by the Broadway musical Hamilton, commissioned a percussive score to play throughout the film. In order to merge the dialogue and percussive elements properly, Hagerty was convinced four-time Emmy-winning sound mixer and designer Ken S. Polk to work for a significant discount, after loving his work on the 2007 film Juno.[4]

The Psi Alpha fraternity was shot entirely at a Beverly Hills mansion that Hagerty managed to secure for free, in a neighborhood off Mulholland Drive that was also home to Hollywood celebrities like Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lawrence, and Charlie Sheen; Michael Bay came to set on the first day of shooting[5]. After a three-day shoot just before his return to Cornell, Hagerty directed all of the scenes he wasn't in from FaceTime at Cornell's Mann Library[6]. Hagerty led the post-production team, scattered across Los Angeles, Tokyo, Philadelphia and Europe, in a similar fashion[7]. As a result, Hagerty and the majority of the crew, have never met in person.


  • Matt Hagerty as AJ Fitzpatrick
  • Seth Russell as The Drak
  • Zack Rush as Cam Holland
  • Jaimie Steck as Ashton Kay
  • Ashley Khakshouri as Mia Madoni
  • Pete Poznanski as Shirtless Samuel of Sigma Chi
  • Shrunal Tembhurne as Big Indian Ishan
  • Julia Champion as the Callgirl

An adaptation of the actual 2016 UCLA Delta Gamma sorority recruiting video features in a brief cutaway cameo[8].

Release and reception[edit]

Anatomy of a Breakup was released by Amazon on September 22nd, 2017.


  1. "Anatomy of a Breakup - IMDB". imdb.com. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  2. "Want to be more creative? Get your heart broken. – Entrepreneur's Handbook". Entrepreneur’s Handbook. 2017-11-22. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  3. "Alumnus's Film, Directed During His Senior Year, To Debut on Amazon Prime | The Cornell Daily Sun". cornellsun.com. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  4. "Alumnus's Film, Directed During His Senior Year, To Debut on Amazon Prime | The Cornell Daily Sun". cornellsun.com. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  5. "Alumnus's Film, Directed During His Senior Year, To Debut on Amazon Prime | The Cornell Daily Sun". cornellsun.com. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  6. "From Mann Library to Amazon Prime: Anatomy of a Breakup | The Cornell Daily Sun". cornellsun.com. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  7. "Rhinebeck Native Makes Directorial Debut on Amazon Video - Hudson Valley News Network". hudsonvalleynewsnetwork.com. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  8. Anatomy of a Breakup (2017), retrieved 2017-11-29

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