Hello Lonesome

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Ratings (out of five): ****

Loneliness is not the easiest quality to capture on film, at least not without boring us by offering up the usual visual clichés of the figure, alone in a landscape, or within but separated somehow from the world around him/her. Loneliness when you're with other people is a harder thing to pinpoint, and one of the treats of the new film Hello Lonesome is that its writer/ director Adam Reid manages this odd and tricky task very well.

Reid is the filmmaker who, a few years back, gave us the Academy-shortlisted live-action film While the Widow Is Away (which is here as an added bonus to the DVD). He uses the two actors who starred in that 19-minute movie -- Lynn Cohen and Kamel Boutros -- along with several others to make up the fine, nine-actor ensemble that he and his casting director Brette Goldstein have collected. Casting is vital to a chamber piece such as this; one wrong call and you've broken the delicate chain. Fortunately, the players work beautifully together, bringing to life the stories Reid tells.

The first of these concerns a man (Harry Chase) who does voice-overs -- very successfully, from what we can surmise -- working out of his spacious home in the country. With a failed marriage and a daughter who isn't in touch, Harry enjoys a meager friendship with his delivery man (Kamel Boutros) and the occasional one-night stand.

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In another part of town, a somewhat sight-challenged widow (Lynn Cohen), still hurting from the demise of her longtime husband,  gets some surprising attention from her neighbor, played by James Urbaniak. This unusual pairing, which brings up the subject of intergenerational love, and perhaps even sex, is handled by Reid and his actors with such halting surprise and charm that we're ready for whatever comes.

In the third and most poignant of the tales, a young man (Nate Smith) looking for love, or whatever, goes online to discover another lonely soul (Sabrina Lloyd). The two connect -- oddly, I grant you -- but in a major way. The quirkiness here sometimes threatens to go over the top, but due to performances that stay real no matter what happens, the top is never reached, let alone breached.

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The three stories and their characters weave in and out of the whole without ever connecting. And that's fine. We don't miss the connection because Reid's theme of loneliness, links and the forging of bonds is so strongly felt. (Much better, this, than one of those films in which "everything is connected" via the puppeteer pulling unbelievable strings from above.)

Hello Lonesome, delicate but grounded, knows what it's about. And so, I think, will you. This may take awhile to come clear, but while it does, you're in for some enjoyable performances. And when it does, you're hooked -- and then some.

Click here and scroll to the bottom for a wonderful extended Q&A with the director.

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