Review: ‘… Around’
With a production budget of $175,000 (funded by maxed out credit cards) first-time writer/director David Spaltro’s film ‘… Around’ is a study in pure filmmaking. Spaltro shows that all you need to make an emotionally appealing film is a decent screenplay, good actors, and the talent to work your way around a scene. ‘… Around’ proves that you don’t need $20 million stars or a massive visual effects budget to put together a powerful film about interesting characters.
‘… Around’ tells the story of Doyle Sims, a Jersey City kid who leaves his mentally abusive home to follow his dream of becoming a filmmaker in New York City. He attends film school, but the adversities he encounters in trying to make it on his own begin to grow overwhelming. He lives off credit cards. He begins sleeping on the street or in the train station. The homeless people he meets there, particularly Saul, who has been living on the streets of New York for a number of years, show him the ropes of living a minimal existence.
Doyle meets and becomes infatuated with Allyson, an aspiring actress and full-time waitress who Doyle, quite literally, puts on a pedestal the moment he meets her. Doyle thinks Allyson is too good for him, and he keeps his living arrangements a secret from her for as long as possible.
While the above synopsis may sound like a drama, ‘… Around’ is surprisingly a genuinely funny film from the start. In the early moments of the film, Spaltro shows us Doyle’s early years. Doyle has a smart mouth, and we see this has developed from a very early age. His father leaves when he is very young, and his mother never really believes in Doyle, so Doyle never fully believes in himself. The way he acts around people is his way of coping with his inner demons, and the character is intricately put together throughout the film.
One thing I truly loved about ‘… Around’ is the way it handles film school. Really the way it handles school altogether is amazing. Spaltro only shows us a handful of scenes that actually take place in a classroom, and most of what Doyle learns about the real world comes from outside the walls of the school. However, the scenes that are set within the classroom are so genuine, it’s a wonder that no one has ever been able to capture it like this on film before. There are certain other quirky people in Doyle’s film classes who I swear I went to film school with myself.
Doyle really is an amazingly written character. He is a reluctant protagonist, the kind of person who literally likens himself more as the coyote who falls off the cliff than the leading man. He is so down on himself, he doesn’t even see himself as the lead character of his own life. He knows that his life will eventually end up as a quasi-tragedy and that any happiness he may come across will only end up squandered. The film’s motto Ã¢â‚¬Å“embrace the fallÃ¢â‚¬ is a motto Doyle seems to live by. He shows us, the audience, this, but he seems to be able to hide it from the other characters in the film with his comic cynicism and his devil-may-care posture towards the world.
Spaltro’s writing of Doyle, particularly the character’s dialogue, is brilliant. Nine times out of ten, Doyle will answer someone’s question with a smart-ass comment, but this aspect never gets old. This is mostly due to the fact that Doyle’s lines are never predictable and always witty.
But, what makes Doyle an even better character is the performance young actor Robert Evans gives him. He has a way of turning on whatever emotion the scene calls for like a water faucet. When Doyle is being facetious, Evans pulls that off brilliantly. In the scenes late in the film when Doyle’s world is beginning to crumble, Evans puts on his dramatic face, and it is really the only thing in those later parts that keeps the film from getting too bogged down in the drama. At times he comes off as a kind of Brody from ‘Mallrats’ by way of Ryan Gosling, but he is incredible at everything he does here. Remember this name, Robert Evans. With a little luck and a good agent, he will be a major force in the acting world some day.
The secondary actors (Ron Bice as Saul, Molly Ryman as Allyson, etc.) all do a fine job. No one is unconvincing, but Doyle is in probably 99% of the film, and none of the other actors involved can hold a candle to Evans.
‘… Around’ and films like it are why I love critiquing films. It is the kind of independent film you love to see, a truly surprising film that acts as a love letter by the film’s creator. Spaltro clearly loves the art of film. He also clearly loves New York City. These two love letters converge in an amazingly written and amazingly shot film that never feels like it was made on the cheap. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the guy has in store for us when he actually gets some money behind him.
To learn more about ‘… Around’, to see the film’s trailer, or for contact information regarding the film, check out the film’s official site at www.aroundthefilm.com.