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Breakdown: Seeking Solace Beyond Stereotypes

In the middle of New Jersey, a rideshare driver and a client from opposite sides of the political spectrum must work together to solve a car breakdown in this buddy comedy directed by Gabriel Tibi.

The script was written by Morgan Cini and Gabriel Tibi starring Hannah Coffman as Ashley, the rideshare driver, and Michael Paone as Sean, the passenger.


Breakdown is as much about a car breaking as it is about the breakdown of society. Much how Hannah wishes to dump Sean on the side of the road for suggestive, racist commentary while he is a passenger, or how much Sean wishes for Hannah to understand that he has some expertise as a working man’s car mechanic, everyday people brush off others they too find difficult.

We live in echo chambers of validation, privileged enough to be able to disengage with “difficult” people. But how do we make connections, achieve forgiveness, achieve justice, and then eventually peace if we cannot even have a conversation with one another? Breakdown asks this thematic question and more.


While the script borders on preachy, it never crosses the line. Hannah and Sean, while representing stereotypes of a feminist Democrat and southern Republican, respectively, they also feel layered. You can see how each of these characters have been influenced by their surroundings. Sean grew up in the south around more space and service members who were pro-military and pro-police, where Ashley is from the city, used to a faster-paced, independent lifestyle likely around more diversity. You get the sense that maybe with time instead of parroting the talking points of their political parties, they could think more critically, and treat each other civilly.

Moreover, there was so much on screen chemistry between Hannah Coffman and Michael Paone which made their strife engaging to watch. In between all the jabs, rested a playful tension in Paone and Coffman’s expressions which made what otherwise would be a tense drama into a bright, heartfelt comedy. Director Gabriel Tibi and Director of Photography Colt Morton did well to capture little middle-school-playground like antics in wide shots such as when the two characters were shoving one another outside the automotive store, and Ashley nearly leaving Sean behind once they fixed up the car.


Not only are Morgan Cini and Gabriel Tibi able to come up with a clever, meaningful script, but they appear to be whizkids behind the camera too. The sweeping shots of South Carolina and Manhattan were most impressive. The bumping soundtrack and patriotic title graphics also helped sell Breakdown nicely as a buddy comedy to enjoy, even if the material at times could feel uncomfortable. Though sometimes it is in such discomfort that the truth about people is revealed and the chance for common ground can be achieved. Breakdown is starkly relevant, and deserves to be screened throughout the festival circuit in America. It will be a delight to see what this team cooks up next.



In December 2023, "Breakdown" won multiple awards at Top Shorts, including:

  • Film of the Month

  • Best Narrative Film

  • Best Actor (Michael Paone)

  • Best Duo (Michael Paone & Hannah Coffman)

  • Best Original Story (Morgan Cini, Gabriel Tibi)



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