If I were to describe the film "...Around" in a single word, I'd likely use the word "reconciliation."
Doyle Simms (Robert W. Evans) grows up in a toxic family across the Hudson from New York City, where he flees to in an effort to escape and attend film school.
In this occasionally dark, occasionally comical slice-of-life film written and directed by David Spaltro, Simms' efforts to escape his past are nearly constantly met by an uncertain future that he nonetheless meets head on with a spirit and drive likely to inspire even the most down-and-out struggling actor/director.
After a tumultuous first year, Simms returns with a fierce determination to find his place in the world, both inside and outside of film. When financial struggles leave the young film student living inside Penn Station, where a homeless art dealer named Saul (Ron Brice) takes him under his wing and a beautiful young girl named Allyson (Molly Ryman) piques his interest, Simms ends up on a journey of, you guessed it, reconciliation with himself, his past and the world around him.
"...Around" is an optimistic little film, a semi-autobiographical love song to New York City framed in the same way Woody Allen frames his quirky little love songs around his own kernels of truth. It's a tad dark, yet an amazingly feel-good, uplifting story sparked by authentic, natural performances from its trio of leading performances.
Filmed on a modest $150,000 budget, or 40 credit cards as Spaltro has pointed out, "...Around" has the look and feel of the underground New York City art scene and the best it has to offer. From a killer musical score by Vita Tanga to David Barkan's adventurous, occasionally too much so, and atmospheric cinematography, Spaltro manages to give "...Around" a look and feel that far surpasses its modest budget.
Robert W. Evans delights as the young man whose transition from recluse to wreck to reconciliation is so richly developed that Doyle feels not too far removed from you and I. Even at his most self absorbed, Evans keeps Doyle from ever tearing down that relationship between character and audience. We want Simms to succeed, because Evans is so utterly empathetic as Doyle that it's impossible not to be drawn to him.
The same is true for Ron Brice's earthy, insightful Saul. Saul is the kind of character that would be a cardboard stereotype for many directors, but with Spaltro it's clear that he has a firm version, memory perhaps, of the true essence of Saul and Brice captures it beautifully.
While the relationship between Doyle and Allyson develops a touch slow and is a bit lightly developed, it's a tender and richly rewarding development brought even more beautifully to life by the natural chemistry between Ryman and Evans. Ryman has a subtle vulnerability and the slow build between her and Evans allows for moments that are simply beautiful to behold.
There are moments in "...Around," where Spaltro's ambitious nature is undone by his modest budget, however, these are often outshined by the strong cast,excellent score, and cinematography that beautifully captures the essence of New York City and those who live there including this young man who learns about him while learning about himself.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic