In "Waitress," a 2007 arthouse hit written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly, there is a scene in which Keri Russell's character, a beautiful and lively young waitress trapped in an abusive marriage who suddenly finds herself pregnant, is writing a diary entry to her unborn child.
This diary entry reads "Dear Baby, I hope someday somebody wants to hold you for 20 minutes straight and that's all they do. They don't pull away. They don't look at your face. They don't try to kiss you. All they do is wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight, without an ounce of selfishness to it."
As I was watching "Sunday," the latest film from writer/director Travis Betz ("Joshua"), I thought about the pure and unabashed innocence of Russell's words to her unborn child in "Waitress."
It's funny, really. When I look back on the relationships in my life, even the ones that have ended rather dreadfully, I often find myself reflecting on those moments and times that were most pure and unabashedly romantic. Of course, I do remember the break-ups...the arguments...the hard times. Yet, when it comes down to it, I remember most vividly those simple moments when just looking at my partner's beautiful eyes could reduce me to tears.
I remember exchanging engagement rings made out of the end of a spoon because we were too poor at the time for the real thing.
I still have the ring.
I remember my lover falling over me laughing while she tried to help me change into the most godawful superhero costume ever for a benefit show we were doing together.
I remember the first time she touched my spine, fragile and wounded from a birth defect, and the way she loved my scars without ever saying a word.
I remember my own Sundays, and I smile.
Such joy and wonder radiates throughout "Sunday," a miraculous little film starring Devin Barry ("Little Big Top") and Sarah Larissa Deckert as a young couple who are so in love that they don't have to tell you they're in love.
The two lovers wake up on a Sunday morning and make a pact not to get out of bed all day...no matter what.
When nature calls, the two humorously improvise.
When hunger strikes, they ingeniously plot.
When boredom occurs, 'tis the birth of pirates, aristocrats and ditties of love.
And, yes, there are times of tremendous tenderness, intimacy and vulnerability.
"Sunday" is a startling film from Betz, a director whose last film was a Fangoria released horror film about a childhood gone horribly wrong.
"Sunday," in fact, avoids any semblance of horror, except perhaps for the horror of trying to figure out how to pee while honoring a commitment to one another and, I dare say, one of the most horrifying grilled cheese sandwiches I've ever seen.
The truth is "Sunday" is, without a doubt, the simplest and most effective love story in cinema this year. Rather than throw in the seemingly mandatory conflicts, dramatic story arcs and other unnecessary distractions, Betz has instead allowed the magnificent chemistry between Deckert and Barry to create a story that continues to blossom as these two figure out new ways to love one another throughout the day.
Virtually every frame of "Sunday" exudes simplicity, innocence, wonder and love. Betz's production design perfectly complements this spirit of wonder and playfulness, and the actors joined Katy J in creating a delightful and unforgettable musical score.
Deckert is a joy to behold as the young woman who surrenders herself to this grand experiment in love. Without an ounce of pretense, Deckert naturally and honestly winds her way through the innocence, the playfulness, the raw intimacy and the ever so subtle shadings of guardedness that melt away as the day unfolds. If you don't fall madly in love with Deckert here, then you are most assuredly not fully alive.
Likewise, Barry's performance is one of honest and comfortable masculinity rather than the all too common Hollywood machismo that is often found in films these days. Even during moments of tremendous vulnerability, Barry's performance avoids unnecessary histrionics and remains quietly assured.
If there is any justice in the world, both actors and Betz would find themselves recognized during this year's Independent Spirit Awards for cinematic work that practically defines all the glory and wonder of contemporary independent cinema.
Each year, it seems I find one truly outstanding independent film that I must champion.
While we are four months away from the end of 2008, it's difficult to imagine a finer independent film than Travis Betz's "Sunday."
For more information on "Sunday" or to pre-order the film directly from Drexel Box, visit the Drexel Box website
"Sunday" is due to be released on home video on September 16, 2008.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic