“I don’t underestimate audiences’ intelligence. Audiences are much brighter than media gives them credit for. When people went to a movie once a week in the 1930s and that was their only exposure to media, you were required to do a different grammar.”
A little time and a second watch has only made me more confident that this is micro-budget anti-drama par excellence. I could nit about an unconvincing performance here or there, but even the weaker bits of acting have charm, and those minor imperfections are really nothing in light of the genius at large.
“Is this the supportive girlfriend issue again?“, says Jo, after Mara gets frustrated by Jo’s natural gift for writing. “No, I don’t need support.” The film spans a dozen or so years, and with exchanges between Mara and Jo like that one, Sallitt lightly hints at the conversations and fights that may or may not have been had in the years he skips over. He keeps subtly prompting us to sketch in what’s happened in those gaps, making them as much a part of the movie as what we do see. I love how Sallitt actually executes the time jumps too; cuts that leap us forward in time are as abrupt as any that might just move a simple conversation along, and there are only subtle visual cues that indicate that a significant amount of time has passed (Mara has a new haircut, is in a new apartment, etc). For a film that initially appears small, the temporal elisions continue to add up, and suddenly, it surprises you with its expansiveness.
It really devastated me this time around to hear Mara tell her daughter a bedtime story about Jo. As lopsided as the relationship becomes and as taxed Mara is by Jo’s capriciousness and unreliability, the roots of the friendship are too deep for her to pull the ripcord. Instead, the friendship just slowly wilts, without any real goodbye, and the sadness in that more than justifies that emotional release that comes in the end, even if it is a little jarring.