Dir: Jared Allmond
Star: Timothy Haug, Christie Griffin, Miles Taber, Julianne Ruck
I dislike watching couples bicker. If you don’t want to be with someone, don’t be with them. It’s better for both of you, rather than making everyone else miserable. Yet this is where we start, with struggling scriptwriter Albie (Haug) and his ex-actress wife, Penny (Griffin), sniping at each other, as they prepare for a rare evening out. Things go reasonably well on the date night, until they get a blown tyre on the way home. By the time, that’s fixed, they’re both back to being tired and irritable. But that’s nothing, compared to getting home and discovering an unknown couple (Taber and Ruck) have occupied the residence and are claiming it as their own.
The police prove no help, but after a visit to Penny’s sister Kimmy, she convinces them to go back and try to work things out with Mr. and Mrs. Cuckoo. This does not go well: Albie and Penny are about to find out just how strange the interlopers are. You will probably be able to figure it out before they do. For it’s clear from the beginning, there’s something off about almost everyone else, from next door neighbour Mark through to Kimmy. Our “heroes” – quotes used advisedly – have just moved into the area, and you wonder if the neighbourhood is perhaps part of the problem. Though the film is more interested in asking questions than providing the answers, another source of occasional, mild to moderate irritation.
To its credit, at least the script didn’t go down the clichéd route of having the couple brought back together, by common adversity. Instead, the dark situation drives a further wedge between Penny and Albie to the point where divorce seems almost inevitable. The problem for the viewer, is never particularly caring about them. It feels as if they are playing roles almost as much as the weird, other characters obviously are. It’s only intermittently and occasionally that genuine humanity comes through. On the other hand, the interlopers, credited as “Strange Man” and “Strange Woman” – are too obviously bizarre. Whitney Reade, as Kimmy, might be the only one who pitches her performance at just the right level of oddness to resonate.
The story did feel like it sank into a bit of a routine in the middle. Strange Woman yells at Penny. Strange Man yells at Albie. They swap partners. More yelling ensues. Fortunately, things do eventually get back on track, heading towards a finale that offers a reasonable quota of unexpected elements. With a small cast and limited locations, Allmond does a decent job of keeping the restricted resources out of view. Though, almost inevitably, you will find yourself being reminded of other, larger and arguably better movies in the same genre. How you feel, may depend on your degree of tolerance for watching a couple’s relationship fall apart, in front of your eyes.
The movie is now available on VOD streaming services, including Amazon Prime.