I don’t pretend to know what type of project Joss Whedon is going to take on next. Any writer who goes from a teenage drama about slaying vampires, to a western set in outer space, to a horror parody, to the highest grossing super hero movie ever, to a low budget Shakespeare adaptation clearly defies predictability. I heard an interview with Whedon recently in which he said he is a writer first, and while I enjoy when he directs his own script, the right director can do a fantastic job. Since Whedon introduced the film at the Tribeca Film Festival this week, one can assume that he approves of Director Brin Hill’s interpretation of the script. If not, he’d probably cut ties all together like with the film version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Alien: Resurrection.
Here, Whedon brings his unique talents to a fairly conventional boy meets girl story. The twist here is that our romantic leads live hundreds of miles apart, but can sense anything the other experiences as if they’re going through it themselves. Once Rebecca (Zoe Kazan; Ruby Sparks) and Dylan (Michael Stahl-David) figure out they can control this connection it provides an avenue for communication between the two. Though, the premise of the film raises a number of questions that never satisfactorily get answered. For instance, what has changed in the moment when Rebecca and Dylan finally make this connection? The two characters have been experiencing each other’s traumas since they were kids and never making the connection that those hallucinations might be symptomatic of something real happening; most likely a brain tumor. Also, it’s never established why these two people are connected like this. I was assuming they were long-lost twins or something like that, which you could still choose to believe since no alternative explanation is given to us.
If you can ignore these issues and just let the story wash over you, it’s actually quite enjoyable. Zoe Kazan in particular gives a wonderful performance. From scene to scene she can be meek, sweet, funny, or sexual, or all at the same time. It’s a character very much in her wheelhouse after Ruby Sparks, which she also wrote. Stahl-David does an admirable job of creating a sympathetic and simple character in Dylan. Sometimes, Dylan’s ignorance is good for a laugh, like when he and Rebecca first start talking and he freaks out because he thinks she is in the future, until she points out that she’s just in a different time zone. There’s a lot of heartfelt moments like that in the film that make it feel grounded and realistic despite its fantastical premise.
Whedon and Hill do a great job of keeping the film interesting since it’s essentially about two people talking on the phone for 90 minutes. By adding in the other senses, it allows the two characters to interact much like they’re in the same room, and is a true testament to the two actors’ skill that they can convince the audience that they are in the same room. Plus, the sharing of senses leads to one of the most interesting sex scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie.
Having the two leads constantly talking to themselves also helps contribute to the film’s sense of inevitability. As an ex-con, Dylan’s friends keep trying to get him involved with some sort of heist, and in the hands of a lesser writer that would be a very predictable avenue to conflict, but Whedon and Hill find ways to keep the audience guessing throughout.
Available now to rent on Vimeo.com for $5.00.