AFI Fest ’11 Review: Sophia Takal’s “Green” Should Inspire Envy

All our coverage of AFI Fest 2011 can be found here.

There are more frightening things than being trapped in the midst of a conversation weighing the merits of Proust versus Phillip Roth in Brooklyn, but within the opening minutes of Sophia Takal’s “Green,” you might not think so. Stuck at the side of her blogger boyfriend Sebastian (Lawrence Michael Levine), Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil), who might happen to have an opinion since she works at a bookstore, can’t get a word in edgewise. The film starts abruptly in mid-conversation, but when it’s discovered the couple will spend the next six months to a year upstate doing research for one of Sebastian’s articles on farming, it’s clear Genevieve will be serving out a different kind of sentence.

Based on that premise, “Green” would appear to be a horror film for hipsters, especially once Sebastian and Genevieve drive out of Williamsburg. No sooner than reaching their rental, they hear a knock on the door from Robin (Takal), an unassumingly attractive working-class foreigner with a Southern twang who sleeps on their lawn after her drunken calls for a former tenant go unreturned. She becomes an amusement for the urbanites, particularly Genevieve, who goes from laughing at Robin’s naivete with Sebastian before they go to bed to laughing with her about the lecherous men of their past once she has no one else to talk with to eventually not laughing at all when she suspects Sebastian could be attracted to this bumpkin.

Takal’s relative inexperience behind the camera shows when Genevieve’s jealousy is expressed through an awkward series of desaturated sex scenes that run through her mind, a stylistic disruption that seems unnecessary when the moments that are truly unsettling naturally emerge when Genevieve finds herself alone. Still, that’s about as close as “Green” comes to sharing the same uncertainty as its lead character and even then it succeeds in making the audience feel equally uncomfortable. The film unfolds as if it were caught rather than produced, perhaps an extension of the ease of interaction between the three actors that onscreen may have developed offscreen as real-life roommates in Greenpoint, but it’s more likely the result of Takal’s sharp observations of the dynamics between the trio of characters.

Tilting ever so slightly throughout on conversations shaded by the differing levels of education and entitlement, pronounced even further by the gender divide, “Green” sinks in deeper and deeper with each passing scene, the anxiety of its characters taking up whatever time and space Takal leaves empty in ever-widening expanse of the film. Partially out of necessity, such minimalism hides a rather threadbare plot and low budget roots that could be off-putting to some, but the reward of the film lies in watching Genevieve, Robin and even Sebastian evolve, with Sheil, Takal and Levine all underplaying their parts so as to keep their motives and ultimately their future open to interpretation. Still, “Green” is particularly acute as a character study of a young woman overcome with emotions she doesn’t entirely understand and yet a film that grows well beyond the frame, lingering in thoughts long after leaving the theater.

“Green” currently does not have U.S. distribution. It will play at AFI Fest on November 4th at 5 p.m. at the Chinese Theater 1 and November 5th at the Chinese Theater 3 at 10 p.m.

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