If December was a feast, January is a famine – the stakes are low, awards qualification periods have ended, and the box office is dominated by holiday leftovers. But if January is usually a dumping ground for unwanted orphans, we’re delighted to report that this year’s release schedule has a handful of very good indies, worth the effort of bundling up and seeking out.
RELEASE DATE: January 5
DIRECTOR: Quinn Shephard
CAST: Quinn Shephard, Chris Messina, Nadia Alexander
Youth is a genuine benefit in the realm of high school movies, which document a world that changes with lightning speed, so this tricky drama from 20-year-old filmmaker Quinn Shephard feels, in spots, like a dispatch from the front lines. She also stars, as a troubled teen trying to navigate her judgmental classmates (there’s a Carrie element to this story – scenes where you know her humiliation is eminent, and it’s worrying) while falling for the substitute drama teacher (Chris Messina), who casts her in The Crucible. Shephard’s filmmaking is as assured as her acting, which is saying something; she’s good throughout, but has a moment near the end of such vulnerability, innocence, and pain, it sort of takes your breath away. Blame is a touch overlong, and I’m still not sure if all the pieces fit together, and if the ending is a masterstroke or a cop-out (or both). But I know this much: this is a thoughtful and compelling work, announcing the arrival of a genuinely exciting new talent.