English Title: Quiet City
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Aaron Katz
Runtime: 78 minutes
Volume: American - Independent
The story arc is modest, to say the least, and I wouldn’t consider my plot summary to be spoiling anything, but just in case, consider this a spoiler alert and skip to next paragraph if you like. Jamie (Erin Fisher) arrives in Brooklyn toward evening. At the subway stop, she asks stranger Charlie (Cris Lankenau) directions to a diner where she’s supposed to meet her friend Samantha. When Samantha fails to show, Charlie and her spend the rest of the evening and the next day together. For the first ten minutes, their twentysomething slacker (lack of) vocabulary was driving me nuts, with each “like” hitting my eardrums like a sharpened stick. But it’s remarkable how their dialogue improves as their nervousness dissipates, and before long, they’re teasing each other good-naturedly. There’s a definite attraction between them, but each is careful not to spoil it by making a wrong move. The film really catches fire as the two attend a gallery event the next evening. At a party afterward, they separate, Charlie chatting amiably with strangers about nothing much, and Jamie having a serious conversation with her friend Robin about Robin’s fear of intimacy. In her friend’s halting speech, complete with more adolescent “likes,” we see how far Jamie has moved in just a short time. When they leave the party together, it’s as if they were meant to be together, so different do they seem from anyone else they’ve encountered. They share a lovely chaste moment of affection on the subway and the film ends.
Katz’s achievement is to accomplish this in such a short space of time, and with no grand speeches or declarations of love. The plot sounds very similar to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, a film I’ve not actually seen, but knowing Linklater, that film is bound to be more lofty and chatty and intellectual than this one. And perhaps less real for that reason. As a married man in my 40s, I can cringe at some of the things these characters say, but it’s only because they’re acting within their limitations. Their awkwardness and lack of direction are genuine, as is their desperate desire to hide them beneath a layer of cool.
The cinematography was generally excellent, bathing Brooklyn in a warm and golden light. There were a few occasions where a tripod would have been welcome, though, and a few of the camera set ups seemed a little slapdash, but the feeling of the images was perfect. As was the music, which was used sparingly and to good emotional effect.
I’m quite sure that Quiet City will reward repeat viewings, and I’m looking forward to listening to the cast and director commentaries on the lovely Benten DVD to see how Katz managed to turn my feelings around so quickly. It seems a little like magic.
Author of this review: James McNally