Alison Strycharz, Ken Sandberg, Robin Brecker, Nicole Testa, Timaree Schmit, Gene D'Allessandro
Similar in tone to Gary King's recent indie What's Up Lovely, Emily in the A.M. is described by the folks at Philly's Wide Eyed Pictures as a "grown up fairytale," a sort of coming-of-age story involving Emily (Alison Strycharz), a hopelessly naive yet sympathetic young woman who uproots herself from the suburbs to city life in hopes of mending her relationship with her fiancee Jim (Ken Sandberg). On her first night in the city, Emily is told by Jim not to come over to his apartment because he's "sick."
With both compassion and curiosity playing in her brain, Emily heads out for Jim's apartment and a journey unfolds that forces her to finally confront the truth she'd really always known.
Played with a low-key melancholy by Alison Strycharz, Emily has the look and feel of a young woman as uncomfortable in her own skin as she is as she wanders her way throughout the big city. Afraid of taking the underground subway, Emily walks her way towards Jim's apartment and, even moreso, towards finally finding a place within herself that feels like home.
While Emily in the A.M. lacks the complexity and emotional layers of What's Up Lovely, it does offer a wonderfully satisfying character study of one young woman's dark and quietly humorous search for truth within and without. Strycharz is particularly effective in her scenes exhibiting vulnerability, displaying just enough inner resolve to make her journey convincing while also coming off as a young woman who truly would be afraid of a subway journey and consumed by a relationship where even the audience is screaming "Get out now!"
As the fiancee in question, Ken Sandberg exudes the sort of confident creepiness that instantly serves up chills. Sandberg, trapped inside what is essentially a one-note character by design, further aids the audience in becoming increasingly sympathetic towards Emily's journey.
Director Daniel Brown has a solid eye for framing a scene, giving Emily in the A.M. a constantly suspenseful yet seductive feeling that draws in the viewer and creates an edgy sense of comfort. The script by Katie McMeans underplays itself, blending beautifully with Matty Duffy's camera work and Brown's patiently paced film.