Violet (Molly Ryman, New York Lately)
is a New York grad student dealing with eviction who forms cathartic relationships with a guarded bartender (Aaron Mathias) and a terminally ill hospice patient, Sara (Grace Folsom), she's interviewing for her thesis on what happens after we die in writer/director David Spaltro's thought-provoking and moving Things I Don't Understand.
Spaltro's last film, ...Around,
was referred to by The Independent Critic as an "occasionally dark, occasionally comical slice-of-life film and a real love song to New York. Things I Don't Understand
looks and feels like a more intimate, personal film from Spaltro that examines such universal themes as family, life/death, home and faith, whether that be in God or self or anything else.
Things I Don't Understand
is led by Molly Ryman as the brilliant yet somewhat fractured Violet Kubelick, a young woman whose interest in near-death experiences seems as triggered by her own personal experiences as it does any semblance of intellectual curiosity. Ryman, who has also been seen in Spaltro's previous film and Gary King's New York Lately
among other films, stretches herself here in creating a portrayal of a young woman searching through many of life's bigger questions.
Ryman is surrounded by an excellent ensemble cast, most notably Grace Folsom and Meissa Hampton. Folsom, in her first feature film, is simply extraordinary as Sara, Violet's interviewee and a woman facing her own mortality at far too young an age. Folsom's Sara gives the film its emotional depth thanks to Folsom's ability to be both vulnerable, spirited and, as Violet notes, downright snarky. The more surprising performance that really captivates is that of Meissa Hampton, whose work has become quite familiar to The Independent Critic through her performances in Brian Ackley's Uptown
and Princeton Holt's upcoming The Butterfly Chasers.
Tackling what is essentially a secondary character, Hampton ends up giving the film yet another layer of emotion even while adding in a needed levity that makes her Gabby one of the film's most intriguing and involving characters. Solid performances are also turned in by Aaron Mathias, tackling what is arguably the film's most understated character, and French born actor Hugo Dillon, who takes a character who's largely unsympathetic and gives him a richness of humanity.
Spaltro again surrounds himself with a solid production crew including D.P. Gus Sacks, Art Director Gwen Roach, Production Designer Emmeline Wilks-Dupoise and Costumer Beth Anne Kelleher. Vita Tanga provides an excellent original score that serves as the perfect companion for the film.
Things I Don't Understand
is likely to be less viable in mainstream markets than its predecessor, but should prove to be popular on the indie and underground fest circuit where its challenging subject matter and willingness to explore with honesty and authenticity will be appreciated. Following its festival run, look for Things I Don't Understand
to have a strong run on the indie and VOD circuit.
For more information, visit the Things I Don't Understand website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic