One of the most challenging things for an artist is making the personal universal. If the event depicted is too specific, an audience might think “who cares?” But strive too obviously for metaphorical significance and eyes will roll. John G. Young’s low, low budget sophomore effort wavers between one and the other pole, without ever finding a comfortable balance.
At its worst, the story has an air of autobiographical self-indulgence, but in its lucid moments, authenticity. Way out in the snowy woods of upstate New York lives Jeanette, a bitter self-destructive middle-aged woman prone to getting too drunk and lashing out. As a character she’s almost thoroughly unlikable. Her companion in this rustic exile is Martin, an artist and gay black man (and much is made of both those descriptors… too much in fact). They live a sort of dysfunctional platonic marriage, which is challenged by the reappearance of Jeanette’s long-lost daughter and her new husband.
Sierra is all seething resentment while Andrew, who is also black, has a secret. The intrigues that follow have the potential to be interesting but the semi-pro script insists on making blunt points about race. Other stylistic elements — the untranslated French dialogue masquerading as verisimilitude — come across as pretentious. And the way some of it is shot makes it look like the extended back story to a cheesy R&B video. I almost believed it and almost cared what happened to these people, but not quite.
Opens July 15 at Quad Cinema