This film was born of two years of workshopping at the Sundance Screenwriting and Filmmaking labs, starting in 2003. Miranda July has worked as a video and performance artist and this film is her debut as a feature length film writer and director.
In addition to this film she has had work featured at the Guggenheim in New York and MOMA and received the Sundance/NHK International Filmmaker's Award for her work. This piece is a delightful and accomplished example of her cumulative efforts as an artist and an insightful glimpse into the modern family and their journey in adapting to the requisite changes affecting their lives.
When shoe salesman Richard Swersey (John Hawkes) splits up with his wife and moves into a new neighbourhood with his two sons, seven-year-old Robby (Brandon Ratcliffe) and 14-year-old Peter (Miles Thompson), everyone is immediately forced to adjust to their new circumstances very quickly.
While Richard ruminates on the new direction of his life with regular customers at the store, his sons are busy discovering the opposite sex on their street and in internet chat rooms. Parallel to all of this runs the initially unrelated story of Christine (Miranda July), a video artist and 'Eldercab' driver stuck somewhere between fantasy and reality as she struggles with her life and her work.
All the characters in the protagonists' stories begin to mesh upon Richard and Christine's first meeting, when she visits his shoe department with one of her elder clients.
This film is a labour of love for July, and it definitely shows. The dialogue is so rich with subtext that, while on the surface it often appears the not a lot is going on, it soon becomes apparent that the most important things that happen in the film are not necessarily in what is being said, but how it is being said. An example of this takes place after Hawkes and July's first meeting in which they parallel their walk from a mall to their cars with their lifetime relationship.
While some may find the subtextual reliance boring, others will agree with me in thinking it is a creative way to add a spin on the seemingly common story of modern families and adapting to divorce.
The two children are fantastic actors and lend themselves seamlessly to their roles, often finding themselves in situations demanding more immediate honesty than those of their adult counterparts. All this being said, the story did tend to drag a bit at times, no doubt due to the director/writer's desire to hold on to as much of her film as possible, but these moments were relatively few, and do not really affect the overall impression of the movie.
This film will not be to everyone's taste as it demands involvement and consideration from the viewer from the outset and doesn't let anyone get away with just sitting back and watching. When I went to see this, a man asked me as I the film finished what I thought of it, to which I replied, "Lovely. A really lovely film." I stand by my initial assessment.