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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Tom Cullen
prd Richard Elis, Nigel Goldsack, Maggie Monteith
with Tatiana Maslany, Jay Duplass, Tom Cullen, Nigel Goldsack, Kyle Lima, Katharine Mangold, Joseph Ollman, Ruth Ollman, Sarah Ovens, TJ Richardson, Sule Rimi
release US Mar.19 sxsw,
For his feature debut, actor Tom Cullen takes a remarkably ambitious approach, letting actors improvise within a carefully devised structure. The result feels almost unnervingly authentic, with characters and dialog that tell a specific, structured story while also capturing loosely disconnected rhythms of real life. Told out of sequence, it's the impressionistic story of a six-year relationship between Americans in Britain. It's warm, funny, sexy and moving.
When Leon and Jenna (Duplass and Maslany) meet, neither knows what they want to be. He's an aspiring photographer, but his ambitions lie closer to home, while she's focussed on controlling her life and work. But they click, and don't understand why someone would call these happy early days a phase. When they're with friends, they laugh about the differences between men and women. And in private they constructively unpick each other's hopes and fears. But they're also sensitive to perceived slights from each other, and they are privately dealing with some big issues.
The film is edited together from mainly long takes that sharply capture the changing dynamic between this couple. Even as it jumps around in time, it's generally clear where they are simply be watching their body language (and Duplass' facial hair). The relaxed physicality of their first year has an almost giggly musical lyricism to it, while the later scenes on a windswept countryside are much more stark in their honesty. Each encounter is so well shot and played that we see right inside them. So piecing the story together is like playing back memories, creating a flow of feelings rather than a strict narrative.
Maslany and Duplass have a terrific sense of chemistry together, opposites who are very strongly attracted. Scenes sometimes feel brutally confrontational or blissfully silly, but there's always a sense of honesty about them. So stirring in extended family, friends and work colleagues adds organic angles to their developing relationship. These other people are also grounded and real, and there are several we'd like to spend more time with.
Aside from generating some powerful emotions, and a general sense of the collision of two strong wills in a relationship, the film doesn't have any real topical resonance, nor does it have much of a plot. But it's gorgeously shot, then edited and scored to perfection, bringing out the lovely energy of the cast members who inhabit these characters. It may not make us think about very much beyond personal connections. But it definitely makes us feel.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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