A moving tale of personal redemption is delivered with admirable subtlety and complexity in Stephen Suettinger’s directorial debut. Starring Bryan Greenberg (Prime, HBO’s How to Make It in America) as an overgrown adolescent struggling to get his emotional act together, A Year and Change makes its familiar themes fresh through its incisive characterizations and excellent performances.
Greenberg plays Owen, a divorced vending-machine proprietor who still parties hard even though he’s well into his 30s. Other than working, he mostly spends his time drinking and engaging in the sort of casual sex that includes screwing a woman he’s just met, in a tavern bathroom, while she attempts to make small talk.
One night at a party at a friend’s house, Owen drunkenly falls off the roof and breaks his arm. The event triggers a self-reflective reappraisal that leads him to stop drinking and repair his tattered relationships, especially with his estranged ex-wife (Kat Foster) and neglected tween son Adam (Drew Shugart).
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Having recently discovered his girlfriend (Jamie Chung) in bed with his drinking buddy Pete (Dan Thiel), the newly single Owen finds himself attracted to bank teller Vera (Claire van der Boom), who’s recently divorced and not yet willing to date seriously. Nonetheless, the pair’s romantic sparks are undeniable and a relationship slowly blossoms, although it’s not without its pitfalls.
Among the other figures in Owen’s life are his cousin Kenny (T.R. Knight), who gets arrested on the charge of having sex with an underage girl; Kenny’s brother Victor (Marshall Allman), newly released from prison after serving time for computer hacking; Owen’s sardonic neighbor Todd (Jamie Hector), paralyzed from the neck down after a motorcycle accident; and Owen’s tough-talking sister Angie (Natasha Rothwell), a nurse who both serves as a caregiver for her brother and attends to his frequent injuries in the emergency room.
The screenplay, co-written by Suettinger and Jim Beggarly, occasionally feels overstuffed with its profusion of melodramatic incidents that seem more suited to Peyton Place than a small Maryland town. But the characters and dialogue ring true nonetheless, and Owen’s struggle to remake himself — which as the title suggests, takes place over the course of a year — never feels too strained or rushed. The burgeoning relationship between him and Vera is delicately depicted and thoroughly believable in the characters’ mixture of joyous enthusiasm and hardened wariness.
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Greenberg is terrific as the warts-and-all hero, neither overly accentuating Owen’s loutishness nor his newfound stability but simply portraying a decent, flawed man. Van der Boom conveys a radiant appeal, and an undercurrent of solid strength, as his love interest, and Knight is heartbreakingly moving as the ill-fated Kenny.
Making excellent use of Maryland locations, the filmmaker invests the proceedings with a true air of authenticity. A Year and Change is the sort of movie that will make you wonder how its characters are faring long after the credits roll.
Production: Pebble Hill Films, Unbound Feet Productions
Distributor: Vision Films
Cast: Bryan Greenberg, Claire van der Boom, T.R. Knight, Marshall Allman, Jamie Hector, Kat Foster, Jamie Chung
Director: Stephen Suettinger
Screenwriter: Stephen Suettinger, Jim Beggarly
Producers: Stephen Suettinger, Emily Ting
Executive producers: Max Duckworth, Bryan Greenberg, Tyler Reeder
Director of photography: Michael Patrick O’Leary
Production designer: Nathan W. Bailey
Editor: Penny Lee
Costume designer: Anna Prisekin
Composer: Jeff Toyne
Casting: Angela Mickey, Rachel Reiss
Not rated, 92 minutes.