In this stunning debut feature, A Little Closer plays out in the vein of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Single mom Sheryl works as a house cleaner during the day to make ends (barely) meet and at night looks for love at a dead-end community dance hall. Her younger son Stephen, played by Eric Baskerville, flirts heavily with juvenile delinquency while 15-year-old Marc, played by Parker Lutz, does the same with a neighbor girl he hopes to bed before the end of the long hot summer. Gorgeously photographed with stark honesty, this snapshot of economics, class and ripening teenage sexuality in rural Virginia gives unforgettable insight into the marginalization of those doing their best to live the American dream.
Sheryl, played by Sayra Player, is indeed a mom who is trying to raise two sons in a working-class neighborhood, with the older son very much influencing the younger one in ways that are a bit above his head. As Sheryl works during the day, she isn’t aware that the older son, who also works, is trying to court a young girl and have the girl experiment with sex. The girl is gullible and sort of believes all that Marc tells her. It disgusted me when they were in bed fondling each other that he had her perform oral sex on him simply by saying, “put it in your mouth.” They go even further, because she doesn’t realize that he is, in fact, a virgin, also.
The younger son is acting out at summer school, mostly because he feels that he doesn’t want to be there and also because he feels he is the butt of jokes, because his eye is patched up due to an accident with a drill.
Although it is a snapshot of reality and the trials and tribulations of a struggling single mom of two boys, trying to raise them and also trying to have a remnant of a personal life, the movie didn’t pick up enough steam for me. One interesting scene, however, that I think was brilliantly presented is when Sheryl does meet someone at the local bar, and the two of them embrace in a first dance. They are suddenly pulled into each other, and shortly thereafter she is sneaking him into her bedroom. They have a good night together, but Sheryl still isn’t pleased. Gabe, played by Chris Kies, seems to be a no nonsense guy and hurts Sheryl’s feelings the next morning when he has to abruptly leave, because he fears being late for work. She nearly has to beg him to wait so she can get a ride back to her car, which she left at the club the night before.
In a nut shell, every member of the family is trying to find love, even if the younger boy should be concerned about other things. I believe he did some things to keep up with his brother and others to impress his friends in summer school.
The older boy is a cocky 15 year old, who ends up telling his girlfriend that he loves her and plying her with a ring that he stole from his mother, all just so he can get laid.
But I give it to the mother; she is responsible and takes care of her sons, even in the midst of such adversity.
Directed by Matthew Petock, A Little Closer is a FilmBuff presentation due out on DVD and video on demand on June 25. Visit www.filmbuff.com