Molly Ryman and Aaron Mathias star in THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND, directed by David Spaltro.

Things I Don’t Understand (2011, David Spaltro)

Spaltro tries to do a lot with Things I Don’t Understand.

The film starts with confrontational narration from protagonist Molly Ryman. The first twenty minutes feel like an extended trailer rather than the film itself, establishing Ryman as an unlikable, insincere egotist.

It turns out there’s a logic to the first person exposition, but it isn’t revealed until the end (which is a little late). The narration fades after the first half hour and Things finally gets moving.

At the core of the film is the relationship between Ryman and Grace Folsom. Folsom’s in a hospice with bone cancer; Ryman makes her acquaintance. The whole “dying person makes selfish person better” genre is a little tired, but Things makes it work. Folsom’s performance is stunning. Spaltro delays Ryman’s sense of altruism so far past the expected mark, when the character finally does grow, it’s no longer in the trite zone.

And then Spaltro keeps the story going… to a questionable finish. He gives Aaron Mathias, as Ryman’s tormented love interest, a lot to do and Mathias flops.

Spaltro’s a fine director. Gus Sacks’s photography is excellent too. Great sound design.

There is some outstanding work in the supporting cast. Hugo Dillon, Nabil Vinas, Mike Britt and Lynn Justinger are all fantastic. Lisa Eichhorn has a small part as Ryman’s therapist; they’re quite good together.

Sadly, the ending is terribly paced (the film’s both too long and too short), but Things achieves some significant successes. Folsom and Ryman (and Spaltro) excel.

1/4

CREDITS

Written, edited and directed by David Spaltro; director of photography, Gus Sacks; music by Vita Tanga; production designer, Emmeline Wilks-Dupoise; produced by Grant DeSimone, Jason Shahinfar and Lee Gillentine.

Starring Molly Ryman (Violet Kubelick), Aaron Mathias (Parker McNeil), Grace Folsom (Sara), Hugo Dillon (Remy), Meissa Hampton (Gabby), Eleanor Wilson (Darla), Lynn Justinger (Zooey), Mike Britt (Big Felix), Nabil Vinas (Joe), Tracy Toth (Lisa) and Lisa Eichhorn (Dr. Blankenship).

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