12 June 2011 | gradyharp
Coincidences and Consequences
Eric Mendelsohn is a new name in the movie industry. He both wrote and directed this very quiet little film that for many will be a frustrating sense of on linear storytelling or it could be criticized for having no story at all. It is a a mood piece, an isolated day somewhere on Long Island where we meet three different characters in unrelated situations except that each character unveils an aspect of humanity that is as quietly real as is unnoticed. Somehow the result of seeing these three stories leaves the audience feeling more fragile and more vulnerable, as though someone knows some of the secrets that hide in each of us.
The film opens at 3:30 in the morning with John (Elias Koteas) sitting at a table opposite his asleep wife (Kathryn Erbe). In silence John packs his suitcase, looks lovingly at his asleep daughter, and as he is quietly leaving the house his wife confronts him with his lack of communication: we are observing a marriage that is failing. John is leaving for a business trip but his flight is cancelled and rescheduled for the next day. John decides to accept the airline's offer stay over in the airport hotel and while checking in he sees a young African woman in a blue dress (Danai Gurira) being turned away when she asks for employment. John checks in and then walks to a diner where he again encounters the African girl applying for a job as a waitress: she is dismissed and yet leaves a tip for the grouchy waitress (Pam La Testa) who has mistreated her. John at first ignores the situation then a note of empathy strikes and he follows the girl with the idea of giving her some much needed money. A tragedy occurs and John's sensitivity is changed and we see him meeting his wife in a parking lot.
Simultaneously a young girl Christina (Rachel Resheff) is playing with her mother's birthday present (a gold charm bracelet) when her school bus arrives and, missing it and unable to get the bracelet off, she takes a short cut through a yard, seeing signs on trees for a missing poodle, and encounters a young man in an embarrassing situation and she runs to school. At school she realizes her charm bracelet is not on her arm. After school she retraces her steps, finds the lost poodle, and again encounters the mysterious young man who has found the bracelet and Christina is able to retrieve it, frustrated about her actions and about the fact that the bracelet is not hers to keep.
And at the same time a friendly neighborhood painter Peggy (Edie Falco) is asked by a new neighbor, the actress (Embeth Davidtz) to take her to the ferry. The actress is a stranger and on the way to the ferry the excited Peggy tries to become a friend but discovers that actress is a solitary women who breaks down in tears. Despite Peggy's need to be a should to cry on the actress treats her with distance, leaving Peggy without her dream of getting to know another world and being hurt at being dismissed.
Each of these seemingly meaningless stories carries an afterburn that is so subtle that the messages may be missed. But these are coincidences that are unexpected and have a brief life of their own and then end abruptly. The film leaves the viewer with a lot of food for thought about how happenstance our lives can seem. It is a very small film, enhanced by a lovely musical score by Michael Nicholas and written and directed with uncanny sensitivity and subtlety.