Opening in theatres this week from writer/director/producer David Spaltro is the reality of our lives and the THINGS I DON’T UNDERSTAND.
This film tells the story of Violet (Molly Ryman), a grad student who studies near-death experiences. In her ‘mission’ to discover what happens when we die Violet attempts suicide. Turning away from her father, Violet begins a path of self destruction paved by her own hands.
She moves in with roommates Remy (Hugo Dillon) the trust fund kid and Lola (Leanne Melissa Bishop) the performance artist in a Brooklyn building loft. Drinking, partying and emotional indulgences become the order of her life. Across the street is the local bar and Violet has eyes for bartender Parker (Aaron Mathias) who has his own dark side.
As part of therapy with Dr. Anne Blankenship (Lisa Eichhorn), Violet begins interviewing hospice patience about death. One of her interviewees is Sara Lowe (Grace Folsom) a young woman who has cancer with no chance of recovery. These two women begin a friendship that blurs the researcher/researchee line.
If Violet wasn’t struggle enough, now the building is for sale, money is tight and misunderstandings are happening because of fear and secrets – all because of a drive to understand what happens when we die.
FINAL WORD: Ryman is absolutely stunning as Violet. The internal rage, sarcasm and defenses are all up, locked and loaded. Even in the moments of seeing and feeling her pain – it is reeled in quickly snapping us out of our warm fuzzy. The walls are high, the depth of feeling almost seems infinite and Ryman is our tour guide through this characters personal turmoil!
Dillion as Remy has his own set of issues that stem from being a trust fund baby. It is hard to feel sorry for him at any point, as Remy seems more like a petulant child than a man. That being said he plays this character with every ounce of energy he can muster yet, it doesn’t change his life until it does. Bishop as performance artist Lola is dizzying, sweet, funny and gentle with such a deep soul and honest intention.
Mathias as Parker is a withdrawn tortured man and it is surprising to me that Violet is so self-involved she doesn’t see it. Instead, her vision is clouded by what this ‘relationship’ can do for her. Parker hides in the hovel of a bar and small apartment to seal off his own pain.
My heart belonged to Folsom as Sara and more for personal reasons. Having been a part of someone’s life and death myself, it was a journey back remembering someone like Sara. Outwardly accepting of the finality of the situation yet, in moments when no one else is around, the inward fears and sadness come to the surface. Folsom brings the silliness and laughs until that is no longer possible. What a beautiful way to play this role and Folsom captures such truths – and I know that for a fact.
Other cast include: Vanessa Altshuler as Brigitte, Anita Anthonj as NDE, Leanne Melissa Bishop as Lola, Mike Birtt as Big Felix, Dina Cataldi as Ingrid, Louis Ozawa Changchien as Tao, Bryan Dechart as Dan and Hugo Dillon as Remy.
The film has also received nods from the Indie Spirit Film Festival (Winner Best Narrative Feature), Philadelphia Independent Film Festival (Winner Best Narrative Feature), Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival (Audience Award, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor), Northwest Ohio Independent Film Festival (Best Actress for Molly Ryman), Burbank International Film Festival, Hardacre Film Festival (Winner Best Narrative Feature), Jaxon International Film Festival, Las Cruces White Sands International Film Festival, New Jersey International Film Festival, San Diego Film Festival, Oaxaca Film Fest, Twin Cities Film Festival.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THINGS I DON’T UNDERSTAND four tubs of popcorn out of five. This film is beautiful, intelligent, and in-your-face with the realities of this life. Spaltro brings out in the open the questions most of us hear in our own insecure heads late at night when we can’t sleep. There is a smack of knowing that we are all struggling and instead of being analyzed – mainly we want to be heard with heart and sincere compassion.
THINGS I DON’T UNDERSTAND answers only the questions we allow ourselves to believe with every range of the human emotion possible. The answers are not always what we want to hear but Spaltro says it anyway and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Bottom line, sometimes attempting to understand blocks us all from just experiencing – life or death.
I enjoy going into films knowing little because of this films very reason – I want to see the film with an open mind and a heart that is now completely melted. The ending scene is a thing of beauty that will stay with me for a long time.
In the end – forget everything you know and have faith.