By Dirk Sonniksen | June 20, 2012
Director: David Spaltro
Writer(s): David Spaltro
Starring: Molly Ryman, Aaron Mathias, Grace Folsom, Hugo Dillon, Meissa Hampton
Violet Kubelick (Molly Ryman) wants to know what it’s like when people die. It’s a question all of us have pondered, but Violet takes it a step further, with unsuccessful results. Resigned to live another day, Violet begins talking with others who have had near-death experiences in an attempt to glean a bit of information about the afterlife, but to no avail.
Early on Violet meets a bartender named Parker (Aaron Mathias), a guy she desperately wants to sleep with. She doesn’t hesitate to jump in the sack with a myriad of guys, but she finds Parker is a different animal, in that Violet’s advances seem to perplex him more than arouse him. It perplexes (and infuriates) Violet as well, but it’s good therapy. Violet may seem to want Parker only for sex, but he will become much more than just a sexual attraction, and will help to transform Violet.
Things I Don’t Understand is the second feature film from director David Spaltro, and it’s a film that at first seems to be about all the bad in the world, including death. But if one digs into the lead character of Violet and the story itself, it becomes clear that, while the film is indeed about the bad, it’s more about what shapes you as an individual. What part of you is worth keeping, and what do you cast aside? In the case of Violet, and really for all of us, there is no answer that will ever truly satisfy, except perhaps that you continue on the ride and at some point, it becomes clear.
This is a film that plays out like therapy, but with therapy coming not from a clinical standpoint, but from individual experiences, and the acceptance required by the individual to come to grips with the highs and lows of a life that seems to be looking toward the end instead of new beginnings, or possibly embracing what has been there all along. Though Violet’s efforts at first seem to be in vain, she slowly uncovers truths that some seem to have built in.
The shining aspect of the script Spaltro has written is that it features very well-defined characters, a rarity in films these days. We don’t get a brief glimpse of a character who is then lost in the clutter, but an overall package, from Violet and Parker; to Sarah (Grace Folsom), Violet’s eventual soulmate; to her quirky roommates, Gabby (Meissa Hampton) and Remy (Hugo Dillon). The main characters in the film all work together to bring Violet to an answer, as they are the very heart of her existence.
Molly Ryman does exceptional work as Violet, running the gamut of emotions, a woman fraught with a healthy dose of internal baggage. Aaron Mathias is quite the lady killer and a nice guy, but a brooding sort. Meissa Hampton and Hugo Dillon are excellent as Violet’s comedic outlet—and at times nightmare. The three play off each other in a way that shows a kind of realism that defies comprehension to those of us not living in New York City. Another notable among many is Grace Folsom as Sarah, a kind of saving grace (no pun intended) for Violet.
Things I Don’t Understand recently picked up an award for Best Narrative Feature Film at the Indie Spirit Film Festival, and is currently making its way into yet more film festivals around the country. This was director David Spaltro’s follow up to …Around, his first feature film, and he appears to be making headway. Spaltro’s success comes from stories that are ultimately familiar, but that many fear to confront. What Things I Don’t Understand conveys most is that the natural progression of life forces individuals to take on these adventures, to accept the bad with the good, and let all of your life experiences frame who your are.