Sarah Lynn Furman, Victor Boneva, David Patty, Jamila Hache
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Peier "Tracy" Shen
There's an exquisite beauty contained within every frame of writer/director Peier "Tracy" Shen's Out of Place, the recent AFI Conservatory graduate's thesis film that has embarked on its indie fest circuit at one of contemporary cinema's most inopportune times. Yet, there's something about this time in history, a desperation for belonging and connection that seems to hang over every single day of this global pandemic, that feels like the perfect companion to Shen's magnificently realized story that centers around two people, Hui (Sarah Lynn Furman) and Chamo (Victor Boneva), whose lives are seemingly vast in their differences yet actually connected in both tangible and intangible ways.
Hui is an aspiring pianist from China seeking out a prestigious position, while Chamo is a Mexican house painter who seeks to establish stability so that his family can follow him across the border.
They are different. They are the same.
They have both come to the U.S. seeking better lives, yet in so doing they've let go of all they've known, all they've understood, and all of their belonging. It's a story not far removed from that of the filmmaker herself, whose arrival in the U.S. in 2013 carried with it similar aspirations and similar compromises along with joys and sorrows and longings and searches for belonging.
All of these things are captured quite wondrously in Out of Place, a short film about people who feel out of place and who perhaps are out of place but, oh my, there's very little out of place about this exquisite and tender film. Hui and Chamo express themselves differently, yet there's a universal bridge between them that comes alive through the simplicity of Shen's sparse and precise dialogue and the way that it's delivered to perfection by both Furman and Boneva. These two are perfectly cast here, their bodies communicating as much as their spoken words.
Leonel Escobar's lensing is intimate, almost jarringly so, yet it feels natural and honest. Ramesh Kumar Kannan's original music companions the film's sense of loneliness and longing with notes that help us feel what it means to be isolated even when not alone. Cyrum A. Ramirez's production design is exceptional, while Arndt Werling editing allows us to linger inside the quietest of moments that unfold.
An official selection of the Cleveland International Film Festival and recipient of the Best Director prize at this year's DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, Out of Place is, much like its main characters, in a holding pattern as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the festival circuit. One can only hope that the film is able to attract the audience that it so richly deserves and that the global isolation gives way to a sense of belonging for a lonely world and a richly deserved audience for this precious film.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic