Writer-director Amy Seimetz’s oddly sunny film noir is a classic tale of young lovers on the run, reminiscent in tone of the darkly comic moments in Terrence Malick’s “Badlands.”
Leo (Kentucker Audley) bites his nails as he tells his girlfriend, Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil), to act “normal” when a police car seems to follow them. Meanwhile, as they try to dispose of the body they’ve stuffed in the trunk, she talks blandly about grocery shopping and swimming pools.
They’re taking a four-hour trip through Florida and the Everglades, partly to see his ex-girlfriend, Terri (Kit Gwin). Leo is somehow convinced she will help them, though the intensely jealous Crystal is not in control of her emotions and is clearly waiting for an opportunity to make a scene.
Best-known as the star of “Upstream Color,” Seimetz proves herself an astonishingly intuitive filmmaker. In addition to the remarkable performances she’s drawn from Audley and Sheil, she uses close-ups with an instinct that’s a little unnerving.
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The opening shot, which suggests that Leo is on the verge of strangling Crystal, is typical of what’s to follow. We’re never quite sure how these characters will behave, or what detour they’ll take when faced with an unexpected development on the highway.
Seimetz zooms in at particularly telling moments, when Crystal is at her most vulnerable or Leo is adjusting his plans to accommodate her. Improvised or not, they manage to hint that we’re watching something that’s no longer “just” fiction.
John Hartl: email@example.com