Thursday, March 14, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Pink Wall

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Pink Wall
Directed by Tom Cullen
Narrative Spotlight

Capturing a relationship on film is a complicated task. Showing two people in love or in the middle of a fight can shed some light on how they interact, and a romance is often charted from the beginning so that the people involved can be introduced on their own before the influence of the other on them. Honing in on the problems that present themselves over the course of a lot of time spent together rarely produces optimistic results, but an authentic, truthful cinematic representation of a relationship won’t merely include the positive moments.

Duplass and Maslany star in the film

Jenna (Tatiana Maslany) and Leon (Jay Duplass) are shown at six different points in six years, early on in their relationship and much later after they’ve endured plenty together and apart. In one, they casually chat with Jenna’s family until a comment from her brother sends them both over the edge and leads to a spectacular argument outside. In another, Leon surprises Jenna with a home-cooked dinner only to learn that she has bigger news for him. And in another, friends have gathered to celebrate Jenna’s birthday at a dinner party, which ends up revealing much more about how they act around others than either of them expect.

Duplass, Maslany, and Cullen star in the film

Director Tom Cullen, who makes an astounding debut behind the camera after a career in acting, explains that showing this relationship through six extended moments was deliberate. He stresses the value of building the emotional landscape of the film in a way that was not linear, designed instead to be constructed through the cross-referencing of the memories shown. The film was shot over only nine days, and while Cullen says such a short timeframe prevented him from doing more with the camera, he is ultimately very happy with the finished product, citing that the “beauty of the lack of time is that there are restrictions, out of which come really great things.”

Duplass and Maslany discuss the film

Cullen also directed his real-life girlfriend Maslany, and he says that they were in the sixth year of their relationship when he started writing the film. Both highly recommend working with someone you care deeply about since, as Maslany puts it, “It’s so rewarding. It requires a lot of trust and communication. You’re working with someone who knows you so well and will challenge you and also give you this massive love and safety that feels limitless. The possibilities are endless.” Duplass, who has worked closely with his brother Mark on many occasions and with his wife on early projects, jokes that, perhaps in retrospect he should have been more concerned about working with a real couple, but that he “never felt like a third wheel. We were trying to find the truth we were searching for together.”

Duplass, Abe, Cullen, and Maslany after our interview

Cullen, Maslany, and Duplass all have great things to share about the process of making this film, and the effort shows. They give immense credit to director of photography Bobby Shore, whose intimate and comforting style helps to make the audience feel as if they’re truly in the room with these people as they navigate their romance and lives together. The editing is crucial to this experience, as is the music, which adds drama and depth to each moment as the protagonists alternately delight in each other’s company and express pent-up aggression about problems that need to be seriously addressed. This doesn’t feel like just another relationship on display in cinema, but a vital and extremely powerful immersion into a relationship with terrific performances making it feel even more real.


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