Isolde is a caseworker adjusting to the challenges of her new job when she is assigned to a man who is charged with theft and facing an upcoming court hearing. She does her best to help, but when the two meet she struggles to connect.
A runaway seeks refuge with her aunt and uncle in Baltimore and finds their marriage ending and her cousin in crisis. In the days that follow, the family struggles to let go of the past while searching for new things to hold onto.
The end credits of this short reveal a connection to The New Yorker, and perhaps this tells you something about the short, because it is one that is very much New York in place, style, and approach, and perhaps the connection to magazine also tells you it may not be the populist or accessible film it may have been if it had been associated with, say, Cosmo. The film is set around Benny, who is a relaxed nice guy running a small independent shop in a New York suburb, enjoying his life and passion of music; the sort of person/place that reminds me of John Cusack in High Fidelity, or perhaps Paul Auster's Auggie Wren. Anyway, Benny is telling people in his store of a morning when he woke up to find a girl passed out on the floor of his apartment and then refused to leave.
There is a certain folded in beauty in this film, and at the same time there will be a certain level of frustration of those of us who love our shorts to open, deliver, close and we're good. Narratively this is not a film that works in this way, but rather it is one that seems to enjoy filling a space, and accessing a character at a certain time so that we can taste a bigger story about that person, without having it all spelled out for us. In this way the film delivers very little but it does it in a way that is pretty engaging. I will not say I liked all the aspects about the scenario, in particular the actions of the girl are never really clear to me – and the sexuality she pushes seems odd, but perhaps this is just her issue that we do not understand. Part of this may also be that, as I see it, the film is really more about who Benny is.
We already know that Benny is the film everyman – the friendly guy in the store with the stories, and this is how most of the film plays out. However within the flat itself we see his resistance seem to build and lose its relaxed comic air as the film proceeds. The reason for this is not clear, however it does fly in the face of the image he seems to put out to the guy in the street and others, where Benny seems keen people know he has a girl in his flat. The ending of the film is very, very open to interpretation, however for me there is certainly a question over whether Benny's sexuality is part of the reason for his resistance. This is an aspect suggested by his lack of comfort in the situation as sexual contact becomes more likely, and also in the manner he tells the story, and the way the scene is closed by the return of the flat-mate. I liked that it is open ended in this way, although part of me did feel a bit miffed at first that I had to think on it for myself. The girl remains a mystery to me, however for Benny there is a discomfort about who he is rather than one just with the situation, so in rejecting this advance he is close to making a (silent) outward announcement about what he wants – and I sort of assumed that this would have been one of the first times he would have made such a statement (even if it was via inaction here).
The production values are high. The film has a very nice washed out urban feel to it, and I really liked that the film didn't have a date on it – the tone, the look, the people all could easily be today or a decade or so ago. The soundtrack is used sparingly, but it is great soul when it comes. The performances are natural and subdued, much like the majority of the film itself. All told the film is probably a bit slight for its own good, but approached with an open mind and willingness to do a lot of the narrative work for yourself, it is softly engaging and satisfying in a very low-key but thoughtful manner.
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