The feature film debut from writer/director John Appleton, Nothing Serious tells the story of Kailey Childs (Sara Seger), an ambitiouis 17-year-old dancer who leaves the comfort of her Georgia home to pursue a career in modern dance in New York City. Upon arriving, she quickly faces the harsh reality of financial need and must decide whether or not to accept the help of a dancer, Zoey (Katrina Cunningham), who offers her a job in a coffee shop, or to accept the help of an aging alcoholic pianist (James Rich) who offers to sponsor her. Of course, if it seems to good to be true it probably is and before too long Kailey realizes that her deepening relationships and commitments come with a cost and she must decide whether to accept their agendas and her own.
While Nothing Serious is Appleton's feature film directing debut, the up-and-coming filmmaker is already making a name for himself on the indie film scene. He picked up the prize for Best Experimental Film for Effects of Gravity at the 2010 Accolade Film Festival and edited Tyler Ludowitz's arthouse doc Quiet Place in the Universe while also tackling post-production work on Kylie Garcelon's short Moral Compass and Sara Friedman's short film, Heightened. With Nothing Serious, Appleton is serving notice that he's a force to be reckoned with as the film has picked up several prizes on the indie fest circuit including Best Actress for Sara Seger at the 2016 Trail Dance Film Festival, a special prize for Best First Feature at the 2016 Queens World Film Festival, and Best of Fest at the 2016 Lone Star Film Festival.
The success isn't surprising.
Nothing Serious is a low-budget gem led by Seger's tremendous performance as Kailey, a simultaneously confident yet vulnerable and naive young woman who manages to both seem comfortable in New York City and somewhat out of place. The story that unfolds is a rather fundamental one, though it's brought to life quite nicely by Appleton's ensemble cast and thanks to Appleton's own sense of natural dialogue.
As Zoey, Katrina Cunningham gives a winning performance, never quite revealing herself until just the right time and believably portraying someone whose sincerity is completely and utterly believable. It's a little bit more of a challenge to give layers to Spencer, an aging alcoholic whose initial presence in the film almost immediately feels like a red flag. However, Rich plays out things quite strongly and the dynamics between he and Seger add authenticity and a layer of tension to the film.
Kudos must be given, as well, to Jeff Swisher and Gloria Lamoureux as Kailey's parents. While it may seem like these would be thankless roles, they set a tone early on for the personality shifts that Kailey experiences throughout the film and their performances remain memorable throughout the film.
Darian Scatton's original music is spot on perfect for the film, serving up a bit of unsettled tension early in the film that waxes and wanes throughout the film's 89-minute running time.
Nothing Serious is getting close to winding down its festival run and Appleton is starting to explore distribution options for the involving, thoughtful film. One can only hope that an indie distributor will catch wind of the film, though hopefully Appleton will follow his own themes throughout the film and be wary of any deal that seems too good to be true.
Nothing Serious also benefits greatly from Appleton's commitment to casting actual dancers in the film, including both Seger, who graduated high school from the UNC School of the Arts contemporary dance program and attended the Fellowship Program at the Ailey School and dances for New York's RIOULT, and Katrina Cunningham, who holds a BFA in Dance from Purchase College and has been featured as a solo vocalist and dancer for Company XIV for three years among many other works.
For more information on Nothing Serious, visit the film's website linked to in the credits. If you get a chance to check out the film, it's definitely worth your time.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic