We here at The Avocado usually choose the films reviewed by the same methods you all do. It’s why films like American Animals or Tag get reviews weeks after release as they get neglected for other movies as life and Moviepass’s one movie a day restriction get in the way. Well for once, we’re able to bring you a review for a film prerelease, almost like a proper reviewer.
1/1, which seems to be pronounced one over one and not a date as I’d expect it to be (it’d make perfect thematic sense too), comes to us from first time writer-director Jeremy Phillips and stars Lindsey Shaw (Pretty Little Liars, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide) as Lissa, a twenty-year-old lost in drugs and alcohol after a recent loss and staring down a possible pregnancy in rural Pennsylvania. The film opens on some very arty cutting between different images, often times still ones that will continue throughout the movie. We get close ups on heavily redacted writings, switches between color and black and white, obvious switches between grainy film and digital as the narration muses over it, and countless other little touches. It indulges in every art, experimental, and student film cliché, some of them neat tricks, but none of them get me any closer to getting inside her head. On the contrary, I just found them distracting.
The film does far better when it cuts back on all that and uses the quiet conversations between her doctor and her parents (her father being played by Judd Nelson rocking a handlebar moustache and her mother by American Vandal‘s Dendrie Taylor) when Phillips just keeps the camera focused on them instead of lost in cinematic tricks. The five W’s of “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Where”, “Why”, (and “How”) that recur throughout the film create a thematic structure that after a bit of a rocky start, also give it a chapter-based approach that the film needs. There really isn’t a story to speak of here. Instead, it is more a series of character reveals and revelations which it handles through conversations and the arty montages as we get to the bottom of what changed her. Another part of that rocky start is that it has to get past a lot of the scenes of her behavior in the past year or so in which Shaw, not helped by the dialogue, is less fit for the role of bratty rebel than what there is to come.
There’s a propulsive electronic soundtrack from Liars that lends it drive (which even manages to build to tension at a moment or two) and at other times a sparseness that is disconcerting. It is the clear highlight of the film. The documentary interview segments are interesting in that it isn’t entirely clear what the heck they are doing in the film at first and they do eventually tie in, but they do feel like yet another example of someone who had too many ideas and wanted to make sure they got them all in. I appreciate what Phillips was going for here, but I can’t call the film a success as the flashes of visual and thematic promise are overwhelmed by all the mixed media which just don’t work over a feature length film, even with the occasional scenes of respite from it.
Available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray July 17