Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SIFF Review: Without

For reasons we are left to guess at, 19-year-old Joslyn takes a job on Whidbey Island as a live-in caretaker for Frank, an elderly, vegetative man.
Written and directed by Seattle native Mark Jackson, Without is an expertly crafted film that deftly blurs the line between Joslyn's inner, psychological turmoil and the outer, real world chaos that forms as her passive-aggressive relationship with catatonic Frank devolves.
Jackson elegantly stacks the banal minutiae of Joslyn's new job to build a dark, vibrating tower of isolation and tedium that steadily drives our heroine mad. This is a director that understands and can harness the power of moments. Locking all the sliding glass doors, crushing some pills, buying coffee; collectively and on their own, these drops of everyday life have power.
Without taps into a recurring narrative motif in Western storytelling - that of the island as both physical and metaphorical location. From Shakespeare's The Tempest to television's Lost, the island reflects and comments on the protagonist's inner life. We find Joslyn in such a place; she washes up on the cold, gray shores of grief and does her time thrashing about in a borrowed house for a mute, motionless audience who offers no comment but the occasional wordless moan.
Jackson and his cinematographers, Jessica Dimmock and Diego Garcia, show an aptitude with the unique Northwest color palette, and brush the screen with deep, soggy greens and blues. Taking brilliant advantage of cinema-capable DSLR cameras, the filmmakers get us physically and psychologically closer to Joslyn than film could have. It's exhilarating to see the future of filmmaking unfolding before you so starkly.

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