If you could weave together the apartment movies of the 1970's and the current climate of a pandemic-impacted world and cinema, you'd come close to describing the experience of writer/director Chris Leary's Footnotes. Set for its world premiere on Monday, June 26th at 7:15pm at Dances With Films, Footnotes centers around two people, Will (Leary) and Apurna (Sharayu Mahale), who are total strangers forced into something resembling a friendship that becomes increasingly intimate over the course of a year of pandemic-fueled lockdown.
I get it. You're already thinking to yourself "Do I really need another COVID-19 film? I lived through it, ya know?"
I get that. I really do.
It's not even that I can necessarily say that Footnotes is an entirely unique film. It's simply that Leary has crafted a film that feels at home with that sort of retro vibe that accompanies its 70's apartment movie framework while also coming off as so completely natural honest that you find yourself falling in love with it anyway. Leary and Mahale are real-life friends and while I'm not one to say that inherently benefits a film, they are actors after all, in this case it amplifies the inherent intimacy of the story and the myriad of unanswered questions caused by forced intimacy that becomes the seeds of intimacy followed by that inevitable period of discernment as life begins to change and you're left to figure out 'What did all this really mean?"
Footnotes is a low-budget indie that never really feels like a low-budget indie. It's exactly the film that it needs to be and I'm not sure a bigger budget would have resulted in a vastly different film. Oh sure, I suppose there are moments when you can see or hear slight differences. But, those moments add naturalism to a narrative that benefits from it. It helps, of course, that both Leary and Mahale are incredibly good here and they possess a relaxed chemistry that makes everything here feel like it could truly unfold this way because they're also different enough that we understand all the "what ifs" in the film.
It's no small task to write, direct, and co-star in a film. Leary pulls it off quite nicely and even quite nicely sold his character's darker moments. Let's be honest. During this pandemic, an awful lot of us have had darker moments.
Mahale is the film's not so secret weapon. She's an absolute delight here and energizes the film with warmth, compassion, uncertainty, and a whole lot more. She's so wonderful here that I quickly found myself heading over to IMDB to check out her filmography.
Original music by Charles Spears is effective throughout and production credits are somewhat surprisingly strong across the board despite the challenges of working on a more modest budget.
So yeah, I get it. I really do. You could easily call Footnotes another pandemic film. However, it really is quite a bit more with a narrative that feels both timely yet universal. Brought beautifully to life by a small but strong ensemble cast and a tremendously capable production team, Footnotes is the kind of indie film I love to stumble across early in its journey because it's such a delight watching audiences find it. Destined to be popular at Dances With Films, Footnotes should easily be in for a lengthy festival run and hopefully to be followed by distribution from a creative and committed indie distributor.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic