By Don Simpson | May 2, 2012
Directors: Sarah Ledbetter, Matteo Servente
Writer: Sarah Ledbetter
Starring: Amy Lavere, Lynn Cohen, Rebekah Brandes, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Kentucker Audley, John Still, Kim Justis, G.B. Shannon, Caroline White
As quickly and unexpectedly as Amanda (Amy Lavere) decides to move in with her long distance boyfriend, Richard (Kentucker Audley), she runs away from Richard even faster. She never seems to understand her own motives in escaping out of Richard’s bathroom window, it is just something she does. From the get-go, it seems as though Amanda bases her decisions upon intuition alone, seemingly with no rhyme or reason to justify them. This is Amanda’s modus operandi, but her knack for whimsical decision making has left her living out of her Mercedes Benz as if it is an armoire on wheels.
Amanda describes herself as a silly girl who does not know what she wants; someone who is stuck at a fork in the road of life. Mid-existential breakdown, Amanda’s Grandmother Mina (Lynn Cohen) calls to ensure that Amanda will be her chauffeur to Cristina’s (Rebekah Brandes) wedding. Amanda does not seem to want to make this particular decision, especially not at this juncture in time, so she leaves poor Mina wondering who (if anyone) will drive her to the wedding.
Eventually, Amanda arrives at the secluded, rural Tennessee farm house where her cousin Cristina is to be married to Julia (Caroline White). This is when we begin to take notice of the ways in which Amanda’s moods change with her wardrobe — or vice versa. It is as if Amanda is a shapeshifter, trying to find the right external skin for the moment; while internally, she searches for the most suitable emotions and persona. As she spends more time around her family — and within this peaceful and happy environment — Amanda starts to return to a sense of equilibrium. We observe as Amanda’s loneliness and depression give way to someone who seems more comfortable with her life.
It seems to be helpful to Amanda when she realizes that Margot (Anna Margaret Hollyman) — the relative she assumed was the most successful — is not as perfect and put-together as she seems; but it is Cristina, though she is younger in age, who helps the most in dislodging Amanda from her existential quagmire. Cristina is an incredibly confident person who never seems to second guess her own opinions and decisions; this approach to life has made her extremely happy and satisfied. That brings me to my next point — I love the way that the filmmakers understate the fact that this is a same-sex wedding. Cristina’s sexuality has no baring on Amanda’s trajectory, so directors Sarah Ledbetter and Matteo Servente see no point in harping on it.
During it’s mere 60 minute running time, The Romance of Loneliness plays sort of like a fairy tale. Beginning with the moment that Amanda finds a pair of red boots left next to her car, fantastical elements creep in to the otherwise neo-realistic narrative. The pick-up truck, phone booth and guitar shed (even Amanda’s Mercedes) each function as beacons from a cinematic hyper-reality that call to Amanda and help set her path. If one of these props does not send Amanda to Neverland, then surely Cristina — with her childish playfulness — will whisk Amanda off down a rabbit hole; but The Romance of Loneliness maintains its strong grip on reality, remaining ever-faithful to the subtlety of its storytelling. The stylish cinematic devices do not interfere with the narrative, there is no apparent puppet master hiding behind the camera; instead, Ledbetter and Servente allow Amanda’s story to unfold organically before our eyes. Their disinterest in interfering with the story might also explain the length of the film — which barely qualifies as a feature length film. While some more silently contemplative interludes might not have hurt the narrative, Ledbetter and Servente opt to not add any unnecessary footage to pad the running time; they keep the narrative structure taut, trim and always moving.