I love independent film.
I love low-budget, warts-and-all filmmaking where the sound crackles and natural lighting saves cash and the actors are showing up for the love of the art and not the million dollar paycheck.
You know what I really love? I really love independent films set inside my lifelong hometown of Indianapolis, a warts-and-all city where I was born and raised and where I've chosen time and again to keep myself settled.
No one made a million bucks working on Zac Cooper's feature debut It Happened One Weekend, a black-and-white 70-minute motion picture set within the heart and soul of Indianapolis which, I must say, looks absolutely stellar in black-and-white.
In case you're wondering, I loved It Happened One Weekend, a film centered around two people - Aaron (Cooper) and Julia (Merry Moore) - who practically define what it means to be BFFS until that very same day when both experience the breaking up of a relationship and hesitantly look at each other and wonder "Are we meant to be more?"
Be honest. It's a question we've all asked, though sometimes that question has remained unspoken. At some point, we all look at that person we call our best friend and we wonder to ourselves "Could we be something more?"
It Happened One Weekend beautifully explores this issue as Aaron and Julia test the boundaries of their friendship. It's the kind of friendship that I'll confess having mumbled to myself during the film "I've always wanted a friendship like this." Indeed, I resonated deeply with Julia's resistance that seems to come out of a place of "I really, really love this friendship and I don't want to lose it." Aaron, on the other hand, is ever so slightly more the risk-taker and can't help but wonder if this woman with whom he's more comfortable than anyone else might actually be even more to him and with him than he's ever imagined.
Watching this all unfold? Absolutely sublime.
It helps that both Aaron and Julia are sublime human beings. Cooper's script here is so wonderfully balanced that we never really take sides in the discussion. These are simply two people trying to figure out life and it's more than a little endearing watching them do so. This is Cooper's sixth consecutive Indy Film Fest appearance having brought five shorts to the fest. While he doesn't necessarily consider himself an actor, he's perfectly cast here as a likable young man who hints of being absolutely adorable and more than a little quirky. It's easy to imagine Merry Moore's Julia feeling complete at ease with him as is evident in the film's earliest scenes.
Moore, whom I must confess reminded me of a younger Mare Winningham (and yes, it was partially the hair), is just so wonderful here that you understand her resistance to changing the dynamics of this safe place in her life. You can't help but want her to be okay and it's an absolute joy watching her figure all this out.
"It Happened One Weekend" has an undeniably retro vibe that goes well beyond its black-and-white lensing by Taylor Dekker that is simply wonderful in spotlighting this city and this couple. Indy residents will delight at familiar locales and Dekker's marvelous capturing of this city that so many of us call home. Music by Mina Keohane is also an absolute delight and perfect complement to this absolutely lovely story.
Kudos as well to Kurtis Bowersock for an immersive, comfortable production design that practically envelopes you like so many classic films.
I love independent film.
I love independent films made in this hometown that I absolutely love.
I love films that are made by people who care about the story and the art of filmmaking and, well, one another. All of this feels incredibly true in It Happened One Weekend and the end result is one of Indy Film Fest's quiet little indie gems.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic