Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Independent Films 2010: ...Around

Over the last year or so, thanks to twitter (can I sing its praises enough?), I've gotten to know some really special people. A good chunk of them are independent film makers. Several of them have approached me to review their films. I'm more than happy to oblige. I try to purchase them when finances allow but am overjoyed and honoured when provided with a review copy. Truly, if I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd buy every Independent Film on DVD and give money to the worthy film makers. If only. 

For now, I'm content to watch these films and comment on them in the most constructive way I can. If you read my blog you know, I'm no expert, but I do love movies. So here I go, my first foray into reviewing real full-length independent films, not the ones that pop up at Cannes with A list actors and claiming modest budgets. I mean real ones. The films that have people's hearts, sweat, tears, blood, guts and brains behind them. The ones that cause empty pockets and a drinking problem. These are in some cases, one's life's work and in others, the start of something great. So please give them your time, your attention and your ability to overlook some hammy acting, poor lighting and creative music choices to see what lies beneath.

Film #1: ...Around Director and Story Teller David Spaltro sent me an email and asked me to watch a review copy of his film, the semi-autobiographical ...Around. I never know quite what to expect from these films so I always keep an open mind. The story centres around Doyle Simms, a guy with a shitty family and a dream to become a director. The story takes us from just before the start of his film degree when he leaves New Jersey to the end in NYC. 4 years of seemingly endless mistakes and bad luck. At ones stage Doyle is homeless, at another he's beaten and alone. The film tracks Doyle's progression with a palpable reluctance. Even the cameras seem to have given up on him which was an excellent trick, not the only technique Spaltro uses to make us feel as Doyle does. And it's hard not to while watching him.

I was surprised to find that many of the actors in this film, while obviously green, definitely had talent. Actor Rob Evants (Doyle) and actress Berenice Mosca (Doyle's Mother) portray one of the most twisted and sad relationships I've ever seen on screen and one of their scenes together brought me to tears. While I didn't enjoy all of Evants portrayal of Doyle or that of his love interest, played by Molly Ryman, I can see that they have raw natural ability and their performances moved me. Another highlight was Marcel Torres, who plays Doyle's friend from the old neighborhood. My favorite character, however, was a homeless man played by actor Ron Brice (Fresh). He was absolutely charming and wonderfully wise without being a stereotype though I mentally dubbed him the Yoda of the film.

Much of the script, written by Spaltro, is clever in this way. While some parts of the story you would have seen before, he manages to create a community of people who are not cliches. The dialogue is well written and rich without being too "Dawson's Creek" (a mouthful, for those who haven't seen the show) and I found myself laughing out loud during several scenes.
The script seemed to have an ideal balance of light and shade.

...Around was a real pleasure to watch. I believe it sits comfortably among the competitive New York indie film scene rivals and would be considered a stand-out by most. I am really looking forward to Spaltro's next film, Things I Don't Understand.

Next up for review, an action film titled Patriotic Danger.


wayneley said...

Once again I have enjoyed your review on the independent "Around" - honest and from the heart - your love for all movies is so evident - keep up the great work jen x

Jen said...

Thanks so much for your lovely comment :)

Anonymous said...
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Dan Stephens said...

Hi Jen, I have nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger Award. See here: or visit our site at

Jen said...

Wow thank you so much Dan!