Quiet City
No, nothing. It’s just that I think you’re even more beautiful at twilight.

Theatrical Release Date: 08/27/2007 (New York), 01/29/2008 (DVD)
Director: Aaron Katz
Cast: Erin Fisher, Cris Lankenau

I have found my favorite film of 2008 so far and it is “Quiet City”.

If I had to make comparisons, it’s sort of like “All the Real Girls” crossed with “Once” and “The Puffy Chair” (the good elements) … with a little “Before Sunrise” thrown in for good measure. Confused? Well, so am I a little.

This little independent film had no promotion and I only found it thanks to some random clicking when figuring out my DVD rental queue. Seeing that the premise was about two people, randomly meeting up and spending a day together, I knew that if it was done right, this could make the emotional connection I long for in cinema.

Thankfully, director Aaron Katz lived up to my expectations and what is left on-screen is an honest, all too close-to-home portrayal of what it’s like to meet someone new in your life right when you really need to. In the mumblecore genre, this is the best that I’ve seen.

As such, be forewarned, this isn’t about plot. The characters meet up randomly, spend time together and go about their day, meeting friends and forming that kind of memorable connection only two strangers can make with one another. Their conversations rarely hit any significant issue. What’s on-screen are those awkward, safe bits of conversation we have when there are butterflies in our stomach. It’s up to you to read between the lines. Classic mumblecore, really.

But as I’ve wandered an interesting path in life, meeting people for short, intense periods of time, I really connected to the characters and it made me think about some of the people in my life that were like shooting stars – passing quickly by but definitely leaving their mark.

There are multiple shots of New York taken at twilight, using that magic hour to its finest. Considering that the filmmakers must have been using a DV camera and couldn’t have had much of a production budget, the resulting imagery is remarkably well composed and natural. In particular, there is a shot taken in what appears to be a park (I’m no New York expert) right when the sun’s light was filtering through gorgeously that actually made me think that I hope it’s what heaven is like.

I know that sounds corny, and more than a few times I caught myself grinning at the connection the two people were making and I’d be absolutely lying if I said I didn’t form a crush on Erin Fisher thanks to this film. Part of that is because she’s exactly my type (I’ve only seen her act in a film and already I’m wrapped around her finger), but part of it is her ability to seem so open to the spontaneous reality that is this film.

Cris Lankenau also does a great job, being that awkward loner type who probably can barely believe a woman like Fisher is okay with spending the day with him, let alone talk honestly and openly with him. What’s great is that he’s obviously hiding the fact that’s been hiding himself from the world – though the details of why aren’t fully laid out. And it’s both romantic and tragic to see that this new woman who popped into his life has him coming out of his self-imposed exile; because though people rarely admit it, there is a part of everyone that needs to feel connected … and this is his character’s chance to stop being alone.

It’s that honest and real look at what it’s like for two people to meet that makes “Quiet City” so personal to me. Most films have some crazy setup or have to make sure and include the stereotypical ups and downs of a paint-by-number script. Watching this film is much more like having a camera film two people for a day. It feels as intimate and sincere as the memories you have of that one person who isn’t in your life anymore but you can’t quite stop thinking of them.

And if there’s a drawback to this film, it’s that I wanted more. I want to see their future, see where it leads. As you find out fairly early in the film, Fisher’s character has a boyfriend. There aren’t any lines crossed in the story but you can see that both of them are wondering what could happen if they gave it a shot.

This kind of longing and ability to be so comfortable and open with a relative stranger is exactly what ensnared me in the film. I will readily admit that I’m a sucker for this plot element and factors greatly into my review.

If you like independent film, this is something I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s like that daydream you have about meeting someone on the street and falling in love with. It’s haunting in a way and I will also admit that part of the reason for my affection towards the film comes from a long, unrequited desire for this to happen again to me.

There are few things as wonderful as that first night you connect with someone and I felt that “Quiet City” is the embodiment of that event. If you need resolution and don’t like a certain melancholy to your film making, this isn’t for you. However, if you’re a sappy, lonely person like me, please, please, please check out this film.

It’s the inability of films like this to reach a market when there’s crap like “Fool’s Gold” out there that drives me nuts as a film critic. And it’s the idea that I can at least get one person out there to find films like this that keep me going.

With a grain of salt, I’m going to go ahead and give “Quiet City” a 5 out of 5 because of how strongly it resonated with me, not necessarily because it had all the elements a perfect film should have. It reached into my chest cavity, grabbed my heart and never let go.