Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Things I Don't Understand (2011) Review

By Jason Haskins

A grad student, dealing with her own fractured life, befriends a girl in a hospice on the request of her therapist. Her goal: to learn about things she doesn’t understand: life, death, and the in between. As the film continues you are introduced to her fun roommates and see a glimpse of hope in her eyes as she falls for a bartender who has secrets of his own.

Things I Don’t Understand is director/writer David Spaltro’s second feature-length film. Armed with a $200,000 budget he sets out to make a film that examines life and the intricacies of death. Whereas the film dwells on the unknown, it also redefines what makes life worth living. The band of characters are all quite well-rounded and written in a way that you can relate to—while not forgetting to throw caution in the wind in the third act when predictability sets in.

While this film certainly seeks a route that’s different from other contemporary indie filmmakers with the complexities of self-reflection in a character, it is a largely predictable film that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel of existential thought. There are definite clean cut pieces of narrative that spoon feed the message to you and some performances are weaker than others in playing this out.

There is no gender bias on the role of Spaltro, who has actually written a reasonable character with Violet (played by Molly Ryman). The best performance of the picture is from Grace Folsom, who doesn’t play the stereotypical dying patient who teaches a healthy person the meaning of life. She brought me to tears with the insane amount of sheer layered talent she displays in this movie.

Overall, this indie treat shows a filmmaker destined to go places — willing to take chances and make a film that is fearless in its treatment of the strong female character lost in the world in a realistic way. This is something that mainstream films don’t grasp very well. I think it’s safe to say we haven’t seen anything from Spaltro yet if Things I Don’t Understand is any indication of his prowess.

4 out of 5 stars

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