Title: Blue Jay
Director: Alex Lehmann
Starring: Mark Duplass & Sarah Paulson
For my latest indie pick, I have decided to choose Alex Lehmann’s 2016 film Blue Jay, which is written by and starring Mark Duplass. Duplass plays a man who runs into an ex-girfriend, played by Sarah Paulson, who he hasn’t seen in 20 years, and the whole film follows these two characters as they catch up, and we as an audience slowly find out more and more about their tragic past and what they have done with their lives as they’ve moved on. It’s very low-budget, but shot with gorgeous black and white cinematography. I think the film benefits from the black and white, because the movie is dramatic and almost like a dark trip down memory lane that wouldn’t have worked as well in color. There is some comedy though, so the film doesn’t feel too dark or bitter in any sense. Blue Jay moves at a pace that may seem slow to some people, but is very realistic, because if you haven’t seen someone in 20 years, it’s gonna be a while before you start opening up to them and revealing personal things about yourself. Besides, the film is only 80 minutes long, so it shouldn’t feel tedious to anyone who decides to watch it.
The chemistry between the two leads is very good. Both actors do a great job of portraying the awkwardness and uncomfortableness of the situation at first, but brilliantly we begin to see their chemistry blossom into something that they used to have 20 years ago. Both actors do a great job of showing the pain and denial that lies underneath their characters that they are afraid to expose. I was a little mixed with Duplass’ performance, but it was Sarah Paulson that really blew me away. She not only gave a great understated performance throughout most of the film, but she also really pulled off the pain of her character in a way that I think was more believable than Duplass did. It’s pretty unfair to compare the two actors however, because Paulson is a much more experienced and proven dramatic actor. With that being said, I was really surprised with how well Duplass was in the film, who I have really only seen do comedy.
To me, the film is about the darkness of nostalgia. There’s a quote I love in one of my favorite films Midnight in Paris which I think perfectly sums up the film: “Nostalgia is denial of the painful present.” Life teaches us that living in the past and not letting go and moving on with your life, can often be very unhealthy. Sometimes it is just easier to think about great things that have already happened to you in the past, because you’re having trouble coping with reality and what is going on for you in the present. Or maybe you reminisce about the past and any mistakes you might have made that you are oblivious to the great things that are going on for you in the present. Either way, this film brilliantly depicts that type of feeling that these two characters have all in just 80 minutes. These feelings of regret and guilt eat up both of these characters, and as we see them get closer and closer and resemble how they used to be, it’s almost tragic to watch, because we know they are going down a dark rabbit hole that they may not be able to get out of.
Blue Jay isn’t a film that is complex or layered with symbolism or hidden meanings, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s just a simple little film that deals very closely with these two people and their past and present. If you can remotely relate to anything that these two characters are going through than you’re probably going to really enjoy it. I read somewhere that the entire film was just shot in a week and was mainly done through improvisation. Both actors were given a basic summary of how the story was gonna go, and they were both prompted with coming up with most of their dialogue themselves through the scenes. This made me appreciate the film even more, and I think the film benefited from it, because it simply felt real. I believed everything these characters were going through and that they had this deep past, and I think most people will as well. This film is currently available to watch for free on Netflix, and is a film that should not be missed.