Greetings again from the darkness. Mark Duplass is the master of awkward. As a writer he excels in awkward encounters, awkward conversations, awkward situations … and awkward people. He can even create awkward out minimalism – two people in a simple and normal environment.
A bearded Mr. Duplass stars as Jim, a seemingly normal guy who has returned to his small hometown to pack up his mother’s house after her passing. While at the local market, he bumps into his old high school sweetheart Amanda, played by Sarah Paulson, who just happens to be in town visiting her expectant sister. Their awkward grocery aisle reunion leads to a very unusual … and yes, awkward … evening.
First time director Alexandre Lehmann uses his extensive experience as a cinematographer, and a black & white motif, to create a beautifully filmed story that is both simple and layered. Only one other actor appears in the movie … one scene with the great Clu Galager (“The Virginian”, The Last Picture Show) as a local merchant who provides a link to the past for Amanda and Jim. The bulk of the time is spent in Jim’s mother’s house – a literal time capsule that allows for reminiscing for the two former lovers.
Amongst the old familiar clothes, photos, letters, books and audio tapes, Jim and Amanda somehow progress to a bizarre form of role playing/play acting as if they had married young and were now celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. You guessed it … awkward. Dinner, dancing, acting silly, jelly beans, Annie Lennox and cutting loose leads them to an awkward bedroom encounter. This moment finally produces an explosion of emotion which uncovers the long-buried source of their break-up … shutting down their fantasy game of recapturing the past.
It would be pretty easy to compare the film to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) or Before Sunset (2004), and though it has more in common with the latter, this one comes across more raw and melancholy than those more celebrated films. We never once doubt this situation could play out, but the only word to describe two former lovers exploring “what could have been” is … awkward. It’s a captivating movie to watch and yet another feather in the cap of Duplass Productions.