By Don Simpson | September 10, 2015
Director: William Sullivan
Writer: Derek Dodge, William Sullivan
Starring: David Rysdahl, Sarah Wharton, Mark Berger, Nicole Pursell, Tommy Nelms, Elizabeth Gray
All relationships have their troubles, irregardless of your gender or sexuality. Jealousy, guilt, competitiveness, disappointment, confusion, and the list goes on — the problems that the three young couples experience in William Sullivan’s That’s Not Us have been experienced by everyone. Most importantly, these issues are often intensified by lack of communication or misunderstanding. The title suggests that some people might be in denial of their interpersonal dilemmas, but these issues seem to be an integral part of humanity. No matter what we look like or who we are attracted to, we all experience the same basic emotions at one time or another.
The narrative trope of putting a bunch of people in a house together has proven to be an effective way to really hone in on human emotions, so that is precisely what Sullivan does. He sends three young couples to a practically abandoned Fire Island (it is late September, so all of the summer vacationers are all long gone) for a weekend vacation. Alex (Sarah Wharton) and Jackie (Nicole Pursell) are a lesbian couple; James (Mark Berger) and Spencer (David Rysdahl) are a gay couple; and Liz (Elizabeth Gray) and Dougie (Tommy Nelms) are a straight couple — though you would be hard-pressed to hear anyone categorize themselves in any of those buckets. (The most overtly queer element of That’s Not Us is a rainbow dildo.)
At first glance, everyone seems to be happy — they have the idyllic Fire Island to themselves, how could they not be happy? Of course their happiness is quickly revealed to be a superficial guise put on by all six vacationers. The weekend turns into an therapy session for all three couples to work through their issues, whether they want to or not.
That’s Not Us fits nicely into the ever-burgeoning neorealist indie film movement, with strong performances that benefit greatly from improvisation. Even though the scenario relies upon an oft-used narrative trope, the dialogue is saturated with authenticity. So much so, the conversations will most likely be recognizable from your own past. Be forewarned that That’s Not Us might conjure up a few cringe-worthy remembrances, but hopefully the viewing experience will be therapeutic and educational for you.
That’s Not Us screens as part of the 28th annual Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF). For more information, check out the aGLIFF Program.