Pavilion: BAMcinemaFest Review

Non-narrative debut drifts through scenes of aimless adolescence.

Tim Sutton's drama is influenced by the extended-take outings of Gus Van Sant and other longueur-loving auteurs.

NEW YORK — Many teenagers experience life as perpetual drama, a series of mysteries and crises in which they are the constant protagonist. Tim Sutton's Pavilion is not about those kids. Bathed in twilight and unawkward silences, it envisions an adolescence not battled or endured but simply lived, for as long as it lasts. The nearly plotless, largely dialogue-free film is made for a small sliver of the arthouse demographic, but love from fest audiences could help its chances there.

Clearly influenced by the extended-take outings of Gus Van Sant and other longueur-loving auteurs, first-time helmer Sutton essentially puts his non-pro cast in a given setting and watches them: They play with fireworks, ride bikes, walk in woods. They climb a tree, or debate doing so; they find a lead pipe and swing it around. Viewers will expect this to be scene-setting in anticipation of drama, but it isn't: The closest we get to plot is when 15 year-old Max leaves bucolic New York to live with his father in a wasted Arizona suburb. There, cement culverts replace picturesque lakes, and kids spend afternoons good-naturedly failing to execute impressive bike tricks. Near the end, Sutton inexplicably stops following Max around, instead trailing a kid whose home life is slightly more colorful.

If these teens drink, have sex or listen to dangerous music, we don't know about it: Sutton isn't trying to shock us any more than he wants to keep us on the edge of our seats. But he does, with beauty-finding cinematographer Chris Dapkins, seek out defining sensations in his aimless scenes. Ripples encircle a boy and girl treading water in a chilly lake; buzzing streetlamps accompany impromptu bike repair.

Throughout, the film's subjects convince us they're doing nothing more than being themselves, so much so that a cynical advisor told Sutton he should market his film as a documentary. That label would prepare potential viewers for Pavilion's lack of story, but it would make a lie of the movie's patient, finely drawn loveliness.

Venue: BAMcinemaFest (Factory 25)
Production Company: Pavilion Project Media
Cast: Max Schaffner, Zach Cali, Cody Hamric, Addie Barlett, Aaron Buyea, Levi Dustin
Director-Screenwriter-Producer: Tim Sutton
Executive producers: Simon Mikhailovich, Russ Brownback
Director of photography: Chris Dapkins
Music: Sam Prekop
Editor: Seth Bomse
No rating, 70 minutes.