The Dish & the Spoon: Movie Review

Wistful tale of a trauma-borne friendship puts focus on stars Greta Gerwig and Olly Alexander.

A delicate brief-encounter indie set in the aftermath of betrayal, director-screenwriter Alison Bagnall's film is a convincingly tender drama thanks to the presence of star Greta Gerwig.

AUSTIN — A delicate brief-encounter indie set in the aftermath of betrayal, Alison Bagnall’s The Dish & the Spoon turns a pained woman into a child just long enough for her to take comfort from a dislocated boy-man. Convincingly tender and benefitting from the presence of indie star Greta Gerwig, the film has art-house potential and could raise the profile of co-star Olly Alexander.

Alexander, credited only as "Boy," first appears shivering in the upper reaches of a light house, an unexpected refugee discovered by Gerwig's Rose while the latter is on a bender. Having just learned that her husband has cheated on her, Rose has fled in her pajamas — headed on a road trip to nowhere, fueled by whatever beer and donuts she can buy with change found in the ashtray.

Finding someone in an even more fragile state, Rose calms down briefly enough to forge a lifeboat bond with Boy, one strengthened by the fact that the English kid has enough money to buy food. They have a few small, whimsical adventures together and begin a chaste sort of romance, alternating fun and games with Rose's attempts to find the woman who slept with her husband and "kill the bitch."

Gerwig handles her character's extreme mood swings with finesse, as director/co-writer Bagnall courts danger by taking her anguish at face value in one scene and playing it for laughs in another. In the movie's oddest (but nevertheless compelling) moment, Rose has a phone conversation with her husband that begins with profane screaming and abruptly shifts to a quiet series of "okay"s and "uh-huh"s.

Spindly and not-of-this-earth, Alexander looks frail but projects a sweet, innocent verve that makes his mysterious character compelling even if he is dwarfed in vigor and physicality by his partner.

Together, they share a definite connection if not amorous chemistry, forming a couple that couldn't possibly last. Bagnall makes their interactions so beautifully ephemeral though, while keeping preciousness at bay with straight-comic episodes (like a hilariously frank explanation of Thanksgiving lore), that viewers may dread their end.

Venue: South by Southwest Film Festival, Emerging Visions section
Production Company: Humble Pictures, Lake Effect Media Group
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Olly Alexander, Eleonore Hendricks, Adam Rothenberg, Amy Seimetz
Director: Alison Bagnall
Screenwriters: Alison Bagnall, Andrew Lewis
Producers: Alison Bagnall, Peter Gilbert, Amy Seimetz
Executive producer: Peter Gilbert
Director of photography: Mark Schwartzbard
Production designers: Jade Healy, Chris Trujilo
Costume designer: Lisa Hennessy
Editor: Darrin Navarro
Sales: Josh Braun, Submarine
No rating, 90 minutes