It might be tempting to refer to writer/director Chris Hansen's third feature film as simply the latest in a long line of indie flicks to tackle the familiar subject matter of an extramarital affair.
It might be tempting, but it would be wrong.
Will (Matthew Brumlow) is a "happily" married actor and auto mechanic who meets Nora (Cora Vander Broek) at the kind of roadside motel that is seemingly made for not so innocent flirtations and potential one-night stands. From their first moments of meeting, it's obvious that there's a spark between Will and Nora though, to be honest, one's not completely sure if there's a spark because of actual attraction or simply an attraction borne out of the convenience of two attractive and seemingly dissatisfied adults meeting and not having particularly anything else to do.
Will, as played by Brumlow, seems like a guy who, if he's truly never had an affair before, he's at least gone through such a scenario a million times in his mind. He's an actor and one gets the sense that he's acted through the possibilities on more than a few occasions.
Vander Broek's Nora, on the other hand, is simply a woman who isn't necessarily unhappy with her life but does have regrets about dreams left unchased and goals never met.
Where We Started, which experienced quite a bit of success on the film festival circuit before its May 2nd opening at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood, isn't so much about the potential for an affair or the acting out of an affair or even about an affair itself. Where We Started is about, indeed, where we start in our lives and how our choices and our thoughts and our feelings can all build us up into this moment where we're forced to decide whether or not we're going to have an affair.
Where We Started finds its strengths and weaknesses in Hansen's bold decision to avoid manufactured drama and the usual and expected Hollywood style sex scenes and sensory distractions. It's about these two people fumbling their way back and forth in ways that seem both innocent and filled with potential negative repercussions. There are times that these two people, especially Will, make the decisions and perform the actions we'd expect.
There are other times when both Brumlow and Vander Broek play it more inward and thoughtful. While affairs are often portrayed on the big screen as impulsive, passion-driven actions, in Where We Started we come face-to-face with two people who are essentially two good people who don't always think good thoughts or make good decisions.
Where We Started, on some level, requires greater patience than one is used to offering this kind of relational drama precisely because Hansen doesn't make the easy decisions here. While the pace does vary, especially after we get through the more surface conversations that could be referred to as "getting to know you" conversations, the simple truth is that Where We Started is more about the inner drama of our everyday choices than it is about the external dramas so often captured on the screen.
D.P. Taylor Rudd's lensing is as meditative as is Hansen's thoughtful dialogue. The lensing enfolds the characters without ever dominating them and without ever feeling like it's influencing our thoughts and our emotions. Instead, it's as if Rudd wants us to see what's unfolding from every angle and it's an approach that works quite effectively.
If you are in Hollywood, head on over to the Arena Cinema and check out Where We Started or visit the film's website and watch for a screening near you.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic