There's barely a month that goes by that I don't open up my e-mail to find a message from Timothy J. Cox, a Philly born actor who has called New York City home for the past 15 years as he's increasingly made a name for himself on the ultra-indie and indie cinematic circuit. I never know quite what to expect as Cox's mission in life seems to be, well, act. From outrageous and bawdy comedies to thought-provoking and emotionally resonant dramas, Cox tackles it all and continues to stretch himself.
This is the case with his latest collaboration with writer/director Matthew Mahler, To Be Alone, a nearly 13-minute pretty darn close to silent exploration through one man's grief, loss and transition into a lonelier existence where Cox does some of his finest work to date that has been seen by this critic.
In the film, Cox is William, a man whose life has obviously undergone a huge shift as we basically play a fly on the wall to William's feeble attempts at existing alone in a house that looks and feels very empty. Rather than fill that awkward silence with equally awkward dialogue, Mahler has wisely trusted Cox to portray William's experience through his body language, facial expressions and the actions that unfold from the beginning to the end of the film. In some ways, this approach is jarring as Mahler doesn't bother with the usual expository scenes or dialogue or anything else that might clue is in to exactly what has unfolded.
This journey? It's as foreign to the audience as it is to William.
Now then, I must confess something. This isn't a role that I thought Cox could effectively pull off. While Cox has proven to be a talented actor capable of diverse roles, William felt like a stretch for the frequently bombastic and blustery roles in which Cox seems to most excel.
I was wrong.
Cox immerses himself inside William's grief, his body weary and his facial expressions devoid of the wide-eyed enthusiasm so often exhibited by Cox. Cox's William has such a cross to bear that it's no wonder that early scenes find him immersed in televangelists preaching about the way to heaven. There are expressions of reaching out, voices heard other than William's, but they feel distant and disconnected and unaware of the world in which William finds himself.
At less than 13 minutes in running time, To Be Alone accomplishes a lot in very little time. Jonathon Giannotte's lensing somehow manages to weave together moments of intimacy and moments of isolation, while Mahler's own original score is, quite simply, an extraordinary piece of work that companions the film to perfection. While it may seem weird to acknowledge the screenwriter in a film where dialogue is sparse, rest assured that Mahler's writing here doesn't waste a sound, an image, a word or even a pause.
For more information on To Be Alone, visit the film's IMDB page.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic