19 February 2001 | bencharif
A human mystery rooted in gritty New York reality
The film's gritty outer-borough images of Queens, familiar to any born and bred New Yorker, got my attention instantly. But it was the film's two principal characters--both middle-aged, both survivors of difficult lives--that sustained it. He, an out-of-work middle management type, is a victim of corporate downsizing now living in a homeless shelter among a multiethnic, multiracial horde of down-and-outers, where he struggles to maintain bare-minimum standards of privacy and personal hygiene--and where remnants of his middle-class life set him apart from his surroundings. She, a faded beauty and still-struggling actress, maintains an oddly genteel life in a rundown two-family house nearby, surrounded by weedy lots and shuttered factories. As they meet and proceed to remove their masks, a kind of love story--brief, impossible, and ultimately doomed, is ignited. This is a beautifully shot and acted film, and a deeply affecting one.