Ned Rifle

Hal Hartley was one of the most celebrated young indie filmmakers in America when he released Henry Fool (1997); by the time of its sequel Fay Grim (2006), he was one of the most unjustly neglected. This second sequel (2014) finds Hartley at the margins of U.S. film culture, understandably bitter about the state of art in America and longing for a sense of renewal. The returning characters from the previous films are either in hiding or in jail, and the new, younger protagonists—the 18-year-old abandoned son (Liam Aiken) and the former lover (Aubrey Plaza) of failed-poet-turned-international-terrorist Henry Fool—are clueless naifs with no idea of how to achieve their goals or what to do once they achieve them. Yet for all the evident despair, Hartley can’t repress his love of cinema; the comic dialogue sings and many of the images have a fragile beauty.