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Depicting the growing friendship between two lonely souls, Stranger Things is a quietly elegant chamber piece that, at 77 minutes, is careful not to wear out its welcome. This debut feature co-directed and written by Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal has garnered much acclaim on the festival circuit, and is now receiving its theatrical premiere at Brooklyn’s reRun Theater.
The thin but evocative storyline begins with the arrival of Oona (Bridget Collins) at the seaside cottage of her recently deceased mother. During the process of tidying up the ramshackle environs in preparation for an eventual sale, she comes upon Mani (Adeel Akhtar), a homeless man of Middle-Eastern origin who has taken shelter.
Shocked at the unexpected intruder, she chases him off. But when she later discovers that he has left behind a sketchbook revealing considerable artistic talent, she chases him down and impulsively invites him to stay in a small shed adjoining the property. The pair, each of them clearly loners by nature, gradually forms a fragile intimacy.
Telling their tale with as much silence as dialogue and frequently relying on intense close-ups, the filmmakers invest the proceedings with a delicate atmosphere abetted by an ambient sound design. The press notes describe how the film was shot in sequence, with the actors only receiving the script in segments. While the concept seems gimmicky, it adds an undeniable sense of realism, with the lead performers delivering emotionally expressive yet intriguing performances that feel indelibly real.
Gorgeously photographed by co-director Burke in the beautiful environs of East Sussex, England, this modest but subtly powerful piece of minimalist cinema exerts a haunting spell.
Opens April 5 (Faces Films)
Cast: Bridget Collins, Adeel Akhtar, Victoria Jeffrey, Kim Joyce, Keith Parry
Directors/screenwriters/producers: Eleanor Burke, Ron Eyal
Director of photography: Eleanor Burke
Editors: Michael Taylor, Eleanor Burke
Production designer: Kristen Adams
Not rated, 77 min.
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