BEST OF THE FEST
Quinn Shephard. Write that name down, commit it to memory, you’ll be hearing a lot more about it – particularly once people get a look at this brutally intelligent and dazzlingly visceral high school drama from the 22-year-old auteur, who writes, directs, stars, and edits. Yet she has the confidence and skill of a seasoned filmmaker, boasting a sharp sense of film rhythm, a mastery of mood, and clearly defined characters – the protagonist, the antagonist, and shaded in-betweens. She uses those assumptions as shorthand, and then spends the movie complicating them; the shiftiness of these inter-personal dynamics give the movie its drumbeat. On top of all that, her leading performance is a monster, with Shephard pulling off the nearly impossible task of convincingly playing a great actor. Then again, it doesn’t look like it was much of a stretch.
Writer/director Azazel Jacobs (Terri) drops into this story of a disintegrated married couple, and the affairs that are about to finally end their union, at the point in their story when most other films would end, and that’s part of its genius; it’s the old saw about every unhappy family’s differences, and there are telling contrasts between not only the marriage and the affairs, but between the affairs themselves. And then Jacobs flips the entire script, throwing their countdown to separation into an upheaval with the marvelous premise of a couple accidentally rediscovering their passion, and cheating on their lovers with their spouse. Yet even this isn’t played as the dopey comedy it could’ve been; Jacobs and his enviable cast (which includes Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Melora Walters, and Aiden Gillen) play the humanity of the situation, its tenderness and its sadness, with an evenness and purpose that’s sort of astonishing. It’s a quiet little movie, but it lingers.