This made-for-Netflix indie movie is filmed in black and white, shows only two characters on screen, is slow-ish and has no soundtrack, except for a few tunes. Normally, that would be the kiss of death for me—I’d rather watch car insurance commercials or those pharmaceutical ads where they tell you how great a drug is, followed by someone mumbling at the speed of light about the myriad ways that product could kill you.
However, the only thing I knew about Blue Jay ahead of time was that Mark Duplass wrote the screenplay and starred in the movie. I love his writing and acting, so I hit “play” and am glad that I did.
The movie is about former high school sweethearts who, twenty years later, run into each other at a grocery store back in their hometown. Amanda, played by Sarah Paulson, has returned to visit her pregnant sister. Jim (Mark Duplass) is back in town because his mother has died recently. He’s at his childhood home, sorting through belongings and trying to decide what to do with the house. When they initially see each other, they hesitate, neither one sure about acknowledging the other’s presence. The ensuing dialogue so painful and awkward, a viewer might reasonably assume that the movie was going to end right there and then. But it doesn’t.
I don’t want to say any more about the plot because the beauty of this movie is that its story is revealed slowly as the characters talk and interact with each other. I liked the choices Duplass makes in telling his tale. He gives viewers much to talk about. Most of all, the story felt authentic, both deeply sad and somehow redemptive.
Alex Lehmann does a good job directing these two fine actors. The lovely chemistry between them carries the movie. Apparently, filming took only seven days and the screenplay was more of a sketch than a delineation of specific lines. Much of the dialogue and action of the movie was improvised. Rather than being wed to lines, my understanding is that the actors absorbed the sense and meaning of a scene and ran with it. The result was fascinating to watch—and you’re hearing this from a person who prefers fast paced movies with lots of bright color and engaging music. Let me know if you see the film. I’d love to discuss it.