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Amanda Plummer’s eccentric demeanor serves her well as the title character in Abigail Harm, director Lee Isaac Chung’s (Munyurangabo) highly stylized urban fairy tale. Playing a lonely, middle-aged woman who finds love of sorts with a mysterious figure who may or may not be an alien, the actress delivers a beautifully understated, emotive turn that gives this otherwise opaque movie some much needed heart.
Inspired by the ancient Korean folktale “The Woodcutter and the Nymph,” the film follows the emotionally repressed Abigail as she pursues her vocation of reading aloud to the blind, including a elderly lecher (Burt Young) who’s only interested in the dirty parts. One evening a raggedly dressed stranger (Will Patton, who also provides the pseudo-poetic narration) appears in her apartment, apparently grievously wounded.
Grateful for her ministrations, he relates a tale about a strange creature who comes to earth and loses his powers when he removes his robe. Following his instructions, she makes the story come true by entering a vacant building and, upon encountering a naked young Asian man (Tetsuo Kuramochi) bathing, taking his robe and thereby ensuring his love. The resulting relationship, while it initially allows Abigail to blossom, is not without its complications.
Although gorgeously photographed in widescreen by the director in evocatively seedy NYC locations, the glacially paced film is ultimately too distancing and diffuse to make much of an impact. The story’s mythical aspects are conveyed with a matter-of-factness that reduces them of their wonder, and the more realistic elements, such as Abigail’s complicated feelings about her dying father, are insufficiently developed. The resulting hodge-podge will be appreciated only by those patient few willing to surrender to its pretensions. Still, the opportunity to see the arresting Plummer in an all-too-rare leading role does offer some compensation.
Opens: Friday, Aug. 30 (Almond Tree Films)
Cast: Amanda Plummer, Tetsuo Kuramochi, Will Patton, Burt Young
Director/director of photography/editor: Lee Isaac Chung
Screenwriters: Samuel Gray Anderson, Lee Isaac Chung
Producers: Eugene Suen, Samuel Gray Anderson
Executive producers: Anthony Ng, Juliette Liu, Pinky Liang, Robert Liang, Alex Chu, Lily Chu, Amanda Plummer
Production designer: Valerie Chu
Costume designer: Susan Springer Anderson
Composer: Bryan Senti
Not rated, 80 min.
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