directed by David Spaltro
(independent, 2009)

You've got to admire David Spaltro. A young film school grad from New Jersey, he has written, financed (through credit cards) and directed his first feature, Around, a film about the life and hard times of a young film school student from New Jersey. If the film gets picked up by a distributor, he can pay his bills and will be OK. If it doesn't, he goes into bankruptcy.

In the precredits sequence, he sets up the central situation: his parents' divorce leaves a little boy poor in Jersey City, where he grows up in a diverse culture and determines to get out by attending film school in New York City, which is just across the river but, in this movie, may as well be another country. Doyle begins to discover himself in the city but in his second year of film school, he loses his financial aid and winds up living on the streets. There he begins to see the world through different eyes. He believes himself to be suffering from a temporary setback but his street buddy, who teaches him to survive as a homeless man, tells him that it's a permanent condition. "The only difference between you and me is 20 years," he says.

Doyle hangs on but street life wears him down. He is in love with another student, who represents stability, calm and a settled life, but eventually, street life grinds him down. The central dramatic question of the movie is whether or not Doyle will be able to overcome these circumstances.

Along with his determination to get his film made, you also have to admire Spaltro's film-making. His composition is good and he gets fine performances from his cast. The film is competently made. If there's a problem, it's on a script level. There is too much voice-over narration and some of the scenes and dialogue, especially in the early stages of the film, are not as well written as they could be. There are also a couple of logical lapses; more than once you find yourself thinking of steps Doyle could have taken but didn't.

On the whole, though, Around introduces a filmmaker who could go on to make a name for himself.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

30 May 2009

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