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Blue Jay

Having watched and really enjoyed Alexander Lehmann’s Paddleton, I decided to catch his earlier film, Blue Jay. The entire film consists of two characters (well, there is a very brief encounter with a third minor character). Jim (Mark Duplass) and Amanda (Sarah Paulson), old high school sweethearts, and who are now moving toward middle age, meet unexpectedly in a grocery store in a California mountain town. He is there to settle his mother’s estate and sell her house, and she is there for the upcoming birth of her sister’s baby. The film takes place over the course of one afternoon and night. I am really intrigued by the director’s style. It is a bit Sean Baker, a bit Ethan Hawke, but with a style that is distinct from both of them. The focus is not so much character development but the development of the social connection between the two, which is the most critical element for the latter third of the film. This film, like Paddleton, starts out slowly; there is nothing forced in how the characters and the connection between the two develops. It is almost as though they are making up the dialogue as they go along. But there is great chemistry between Duplass and Paulson as they let their histories naturally unfold. Both are excellent and perfect for their roles. There is very little of the music that most directors use to set the emotional mood for the story; it is just the two of them talking, reminiscing, and re-living their past. You sense all the while that there is something going on under the surface, and when it comes out during the last 20 minutes, you know it is coming but doesn’t have a clue what it is. Big thumbs up for a film that, like Paddleton, has its flaws but still represents a very unique style of filmmaking. (2016; 4 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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