Directed by Lee Isaac Chung
This fantastical film is steeped in the motifs of indie naturalism—shaky cameras film lonely people who live in a NYC of subway cars and one-bedroom apartments—so much so that, even though it begins with a telegraphing reading from Through the Looking Glass, it’s jolting when the story takes a turn into the fanciful. The title character (played by Amanda Plummer with so much feeling that she’s riveting) reads to the blind, going about her day never being seen by another person, until one evening she’s visited in her apartment by a scraggly man (Will Patton) bleeding from stab wounds; he asks her to protect him, which she does, hiding him there from violent men outside her door. In thanks, he offers her a reward: the chance to fall in love and be loved.
He’s a man who’s fallen to Earth from who-knows-where, some god or angel, with knowledge of how to steal the robe of another like him, thus binding the victim to her in love. Abigail Harm is a modern character study locked into fairytale, a magic-realist spin on the Korean folk tale “The Woodcutter and the Nymph.” Plummer steals the near-mute Tetsuo Kuramochi’s robe and then wears down his resistance; a stranger in a strange land, his inexperience with life on Earth makes him childlike, full of wonder and panic, which makes Abigail equal parts mother and lover. Chung mixes in poetic asides with voiceover narration from Patton, grounding the fable in emotional realism—it may be mythical, but it still stings like real life.
Opens August 30