DePaul alumna Linh Tran’s feature debut considers the liminal period in a person’s life that is their early 20s, when the future is seemingly far ahead but still so near. The chamber drama-esque plot centers largely on Amy (Jin Park), who’s gone to stay with old friends at a beach house in Michigan. It’s wintertime, however, so their activities are relatively contained.
What’s left to do is talk and, when not talking, sit in ruminative silence, amidst which much is left unsaid. Amy, who’s recently lost a lot of weight, contends with her new body and her romantic feelings for her friend’s boyfriend, Jay (Sam Straley); the friend in question, Kim (Joyce Ha), is thriving in her post-college career, while Amy, who’s in graduate school, didn’t find a job after undergrad.
Each character has his or her own struggles, some more pronounced than others. Jay’s father has recently died, and Lin (Qun Chi), Amy’s cousin who’s joined the group on their trip, laments the ending of a recent love affair. Even Kim, who’s got the job and the guy, evinces a melancholy over which she seems to have no control.
They do have some fun, but as the week progresses, angst rises to the surface. Still, it’s what isn’t said that tinges the film with a lingering uncertainty about the future of these fragile relationships. Tran and cowriters Jewells Santos and Delia Van Praag crafted a character-focused script that says exactly what it needs to without saying too much or too little. Just enough to communicate what’s really being said.
Tran has been referred to as being influenced by filmmakers Hong Sang-soo, Jim Jarmusch, and Eric Rohmer; as New Yorker critic Richard Brody has written about the latter auteur, “Even when [his characters are] talking about other things, as they often do—about art, philosophy, other relationships, personal preferences of various sorts—they’re still talking, by proxy, about matters of the heart.”
David Foy’s crisp cinematography evokes the blue sky and water that glisten in the group’s surroundings, and the five-person cast (Erik Barrientos plays another friend, Alex, whom it’s revealed worked at the same restaurant as Amy and Jay) play off one another beautifully. Tran’s film, produced by DePaul’s Indie Studio with an all-student crew, won the 2023 Slamdance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Film and deservedly so. 89 min.