Indie movies. People either hate them or love them. No creative restrictions, low-budget filmmaking, D- and C-list actors, experimental techniques, and the (pretentious?) spirit of “Fuck you, Hollywood!” are traits that separate indie films to commercial blockbusters. Who doesn’t love the outlaws of an industry? These are the guys that go against the grain. They refuse to obey conventional formulas and play by their own rules. Yeah! Fuck Hollywood! Never mind they’re the reason why people make movies in the first place!
The biggest complaint I’ve heard from indie movies are how, and I quote my sister’s boyfriend, “fu fu fluff” they can be. I normally play devil’s advocate and defend indie movies, claiming they make movies that Hollywood wouldn’t dare make. But his arguments often have weight as well; they’re super pretentious and arrogant, and these films may or may not be a way of stroking the artist’s own ego. Oh, you don’t get the film’s message? You don’t like the cinematography? Or the irony of the conflicts? You just don’t appreciate it, then. Not to mention, art is extremely subjective (but that’s a whole ‘nother topic).
For me, I’m torn. I appreciate the daring attitude indie films have, but I despise the extremely-low production values. You get what you pay for, and that rings especially true with actors and actresses. With commercial films, you’re guaranteed to get at least one or two decent performances from an established talent. With indie films, however, it’s a gamble and I’m not much of a gambling man.
But in the end, those are indie films, love them or hate them. And there is no better example of the quintessential, 21st century independent film than All the Days Before Tomorrow.
I found this movie on Netflix a few weeks ago by sheer chance. I know none of the actors or directors on the film, but was attracted by the poster. I know it’s terrible to judge a book by its cover, but JESUS, LOOK AT THAT SUNSET. I have never been more moved by a single movie poster before, except the epic Drew Struzan paintings. I get feelings of nostalgia, of pleasant memories that fade as time moves on. I knew in that instant I had to see this film, and the accolades plastered all over the poster suggested I’d have a good time. Maybe it’s a hidden gem of a film. Something so beautiful and under appreciated? Something amazing but no one knows about it? Oh, this tickled the little hipster in me. I had to see what this film is all about.
That was weeks ago. This morning I revisited the film, hoping my perspective would change.
The film follows Wes, Alison, and their relationship at various stages, going back and fourth between different summers they spent together and the present day. These two are incredibly close and have done several things you’d expect a couple to do, but their timing was never quite ri-… Holy shit, this movie is about the friend zone. Not to turn this post into a self-deprecating pity blog, but if anyone would have knowledge about the friend zone, it’s the dude who’s typing the crap you’re reading right now. Yeah, this is going to be fun for me to watch.
So Wes and Alison are “almost, but not quite” and we’re supposed to believe these two could work out should their personal situations line up correctly. In the first act of the film, their chemistry just isn’t there. Perhaps it was the director’s intent was to build them up together, but the problem here is that the scene takes place in the present day; theoretically, they have no building up to do. Maybe I’ll blame the actors or writing, because there are so many pauses and awkward silences that it feels like you shouldn’t be watching them. Not the right way to begin a movie about two friends who should be dating but aren’t.
But as the movie continues, the chemistry begins to work and the actors are, in fact, very competent performers. You believe that they want to be together but simply can’t because something is just not quite there. They grow to be believable and likeable people, the friends you would call up on a whim to see a movie on a lazy Sunday. Although Wes has a douchebag haircut which may turn people off at first, but an exchange about his metrosexuality sort of lampshades it and gives it a pass.
Alison visits Wes the night before she returns to her boyfriend in Tokyo. They hadn’t seen each other in awhile, and decide to catch up. The movie then takes you to different summers they spent together dancing, road tripping, and other things couples would do. You journey through all the days before Alison leaves tomorrow, and that’s how the film got its title, which I honestly didn’t pick up on until like two seconds ago. Seriously, it’s like a revelation. Angels and lights and shit are “Ahhh”-ing right now.
Despite the likeable characters, the story just kind of treads along, with no severe conflict or anything significant happening. The only conflict is that which takes place within the characters. Do we? Are we? Should we? If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, then trust me: It won’t be.
But what may appeal to you is the cinematography of the film. You want to watch something breathtaking today? Watch the scenes in the desert. The movie poster shows a gorgeous shot of Wes and Alison, and the film lives up to that imagery. Kudos to the cinematographer, because holy shit the film is beautiful to look at. One scene in particular allows the viewer to take in landscape: a camera is placed on the hood of the car and Wes and Alison share a long exchange that I would like to believe was shot in one-take. The scene’s background is gorgeous, and I highly suggest checking it out.
Overall, the film is exactly what you would expect from an indie film. Experimental and non-linear storytelling, witty exchanges, and scenes that feature Wes’ guardian angel.
Yeah, about that. I truly don’t know what to think of it, but the movie has several scenes where Wes talks to his “guardian angel” in the same desert that he spent time with Alison (I think, they often joke that they’re in Pakistan but the last scene would tell you otherwise). The dialogue is cryptic and not easy to pick up on. I’ve seen it twice and I still don’t get what the purpose is. This is where I personally draw the line on art and practical storytelling; you can have self-talks with guardian angels that may or may not actually happen but the fact that they’re in the movie means it has purpose. I can’t tell what the purpose is, and as a viewer it’s pissing me off. Is it supposed to be art? Is it supposed to be highlighting the themes of the movie? If it does then it fails, and this is where I have to agree with the “fu fu fluff” of indie films: pretentious bullshit.
But that aside, the film is still a decent look into a relationship that is too close to be anything but. Millions of people have these kinds of relationships and they sting like a bitch. This movie won’t help those who suffer or provide any answers how to solve the dilemma. All it presents is a reflection of these relationships, and it’s up to the viewers and their own guardian angels to figure it out.
…man, that sunset…