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AUSTIN – A sensitive, no-cop-outs film about relationships and moments of truth both genuine and manufactured, Nate Meyer‘s See Girl Run should earn much more attention than the director’s debut, Pretty in the Face (itself a SXSW alum). The presence of Parks and Rec charmer Adam Scott increases commercial appeal, though marketers will have to keep audiences from assuming the gently introspective Girl is a comedy.
Scott plays Jason, the high-school boyfriend inspiring escape fantasies for Emmie (Robin Tunney), whose marriage to Graham (Josh Hamilton) has grown stale. Emmie and Jason never officially broke up when she left for college, and Emmie’s current ennui has led her to obsess about what she expected from marriage and what might have happened if she’d stayed with Jason. One day she packs a bag and (leaving no note for Graham) goes home to small-town Maine, intending to reconnect with her troubled brother Brandon (Jeremy Strong) while mustering the nerve to see if there’s life left in her first love.
While Emmie gives voice to the concerns of 30- and 40-somethings in the audience, frustrated with the failure of actual long-term relationships to live up to pop culture-derived expectations — her disappointment echoed nicely by the film’s perpetually overcast coastal skies — Jason still hasn’t had to face these realities. Scott squeezes as much emotional sophistication as will fit into a character whose continued romanticism is almost childish, especially when paired with artistic ambitions focused largely on dorkily cute paintings of frogs.
Meyer’s script isn’t humorless, but it rarely offers a laugh that isn’t tied to some poignant expression of compromise or disappointment. Though the story seems pointed toward a follow-your-bliss reunion, Meyer doesn’t make it easy for Emmie (or us) to dismiss the commitments she’s made; in a nice scene, Emmie’s father (William Sadler, getting an unexpected opportunity to be the voice of emotional wisdom) uses a military metaphor to argue that flexibility and steadfastness aren’t incompatible.
See Girl Run is a bit thin compared to an ensemble film like Beautiful Girls, which explored similar themes in another setting heavy on local color. But it works well given its scale, leaving viewers moved but not manipulated — and taking pains not to construct another fantasy about love that will endanger viewers’ ability to navigate the actual relationships life brings them.
Venue: South By Southwest film festival, Narrative Spotlight
Production Company: Happy Couples Productions
Cast: Robin Tunney, Adam Scott, Jeremy Strong, William Sadler, Aubrey Dollar, Marylouise Burke, Josh Hamilton
Director-Screenwriter: Nate Meyer
Producers: Jesse Sweet, Derrick Tseng, Nate Meyer
Executive producers: David Gordon Green, Lisa Muskat
Director of photography: Jeremy Saulnier
Production designer: Devoe Yates
Music: Joseph Stephens
Costume designer: Stephani Lewis
Editor: Jane Rizzo
Sales: Ryan Kampe, Visit Films
No rating, 89 minutes
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