Adrift in Manhattan

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Washington Square Films

PARK CITY -- Three lonely people with a world of hurt inside are "Adrift in Manhattan,' Alfredo de Villa's slice of Midtown life. De Villa has a sharp eye for details that articulate unspoken grief and isolation in people. His film is like a good short story, where there are no wasted moments and an economy of expression allows the story to achieve maximum impact.

Like some short stories though, the need to bring things to a head and forge a quick resolution causes the director, working from a script by Nat Moss, to simplify the issues raised. The main characters are able to move on with their lives a bit too easily thanks to a few change encounters. "Adrift" should perform well in subsequent festivals, but despite the presence of a star in Heather Graham the film has limited theatrical possibilities.

Three lives intersect randomly. Simon (Victor Rasuk), a quiet, late blooming teen with a demanding mother who is overly intimate with her son, has a passion for photography. When his telephoto lens catches sight of Rose (Graham), he is struck by the sadness he recognizes in her body language.

With his camera snapping away, he becomes a benign stalker and the movie enters her life. Since the tragic death of her two-year-old, Rose, an ophthalmologist, has become engulfed in sorrow and estranged from her husband (William Baldwin).

The third lonely person is Rose's patient Tommaso (Dominic Chianese), an aging painter whose work and his mailroom job are threatened by impending blindness. Rose urges him to seek out friends, which in his case means a budding romance with a co-worker (Elizabeth Pena).

The film's most effective moments are its quietest such as the painter searching for a way to paint with diminished eyesight or the photographer examining photos of his eroticized obsession. The performances capture the ways people build walls around themselves to prevent the intimacy that may actually heal their pain.

De Villa clearly likes all his characters enormously. So perhaps he is too anxious to see everyone happy at the end. In life, some wounds refuse to heal.

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