It’s the simplest of ideas-- boy meets girl, not “cute” so much as “strange,” when he passes her on the street and she seems to pick him out randomly from a core sampling of thousands of possible young male candidates, all milling about Los Angeles looking for direction and, of course, love. Before he even knows what has happened, David (Andre Hall) falls under the spell of this rather forward but sweetly, transparently sincere young woman, Hannah, who gazes at him directly with her spectacular blue eyes and prompts him, almost by telepathy, to ask her out on a date. That date, which is nearly derailed by Hannah’s odd eagerness to agree with everything David says or suggests, and her even odder lack of familiarity with things like alcohol and Mediterranean food, is the main focus of Far, a new short film directed Brian James Crewe from a script by Marion Kerr. Kerr also plays—no, she embodies Hannah, and to such a delightful degree that it’s easy in writing about the film to ignore what happens on that date, the details of which only a true misanthrope would care to spoil, in favor of gushing on at length about the luminescent Kerr.
This is an actress whose delightful screen presence, perfectly calibrated between joy, confusion, innocent allure and the temperance of the best comedic screen acting, absolutely fulfills the possibilities inherent in her script, which is in its way also perfectly calibrated, never stumbling into the multitude of ostentatious pitfalls of overly articulate dialogue that have plagued so much modern indie screenwriting in the wake of Quentin Tarantino.
After the date has threatened to crumble due to Hannah’s inexplicable behavior at dinner (again I refuse to give away anything), David, whose initial instinct is to cut bait and run, suggests they have a “do over” and pretend the past hour never happened. Hannah agrees, appearing to literally wipe her slate clean before his eyes and reintroducing herself to him as if truly starting anew. David then suggests that he and Hannah “grab some dessert, catch a movie, play some golf, whatever you want” and is only mildly surprised when she jumps at the opportunity to do all three. They end up at a Charlie Chaplin Film Festival, which under normal circumstances would seem to be a clueless act of begging for trouble on the part of the filmmakers. But while they laugh and toss popcorn at each other while watching Chaplin’s The Rink (1916), you realize that while comparisons are certainly not being consciously courted, it’s absolutely no stretch, on the evidence of Kerr’s performance, to be reminded of the kind of breathtaking openness that shines forth from Chaplin in a masterpiece like City Lights (1931) when you see what Kerr conjures in this movie. The simplest of close-ups in a two-shot pattern during any one of the conversations between Hannah and David reveals a sublime riot of emotional shifts and constant discovery that Kerr masterfully navigates with the grace of a dancer, or a performer who understands comic acting from the inside out, as if she were completely in tune with or being guided by the spirit of Chaplin and other forefathers and foremothers of the romantic spirit of the movies.
Andre Hall has the formidable challenge of holding his own with Kerr, and it’s a tribute to his own likable presence that he seems at home in and energized by the glow of his leading lady—he makes being smitten by her look like the most obvious, unavoidable thing in this world or any other, and he’s delightful in his own right. (Only a couple of his reaction shots at key moments—one of them telegraphing his indecision at terminating the date, the other I can’t talk about—falter, but the goodwill generated by the whole of the movie exposes an observation like this as Nitpicking 101.)
Through it all, director Crewe maintains a light, steady, never obtrusive hand, gently guiding the events of the evening from curiosity to enthusiasm to frustration, back again to joy and ultimately through a special and bittersweet exhilaration, with the surest of touches that belies his own artistic connection with the cream of the history of romantic comedy. This is a piece of unpretentious directing that Preston Sturges would have enjoyed. In fact, Far is such an unalloyed, perfect realized jewel that, at the slimmest of running times (23 minutes), the “do over” you’ll want to indulge will be in seeing it again, and right away, the better to enjoy all over the lovely rhythms of the movie itself and the incandescence of its lead actress, who shines like the truest starlight. The only question of any import you’re left with at the end of Far seems to be, how could anyone on Earth resist falling in love with Marion Kerr?
Far screens Sunday at 4:00 p.m. as part of the program of short films scheduled at the L.A. Indie Film Fest. You can purchase tickets here.