The Off Hours: a 2011 Independent Film
This was the official website for the 2011 independent film, The Off Hours.
Content is from the site's 2011 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.
In "The Off Hours" Francine is a waitress whose liberation from her mundane existence is long overdue. In the dreamlike and restless world of the night shift at a highway diner, Francine's life consists of casual encounters and transient friendships. What she wants is out of reach-or is it that she's lost track of wanting anything at all? When a banker turned big-rig driver becomes a regular, he sparks hope in Francine. As change begins to invade the quiet diner, Francine is reminded that it is never too late to become the person she was meant to be.
The Off Hours Movie Official Trailer 2011
About the film
You're awake when everyone else is asleep. You're standing still as traffic is whipping by at 70mph. Your off hours are spent trying to figure out why you're here, whether you want to stay, and how to leave.
In THE OFF HOURS, Amy Seimetz (TINY FURNITURE) alluringly commands the screen as Francine, a waitress whose liberation from her mundane existence is long overdue. In the restless world of the night shift at a highway diner, Francine's life consists of casual encounters and transient friendships. What she wants is out of reach—or is it that she's lost track of wanting anything at all? When a banker turned big-rig driver (BAGHEAD’s Ross Partridge) becomes a regular, he sparks hope in Francine. As change begins to invade the quiet diner, Francine is reminded that it is never too late to become the person she was meant to be.
Writer/director Megan Griffiths draws complex characters and stays true to them, respecting their shortcomings and yearnings for connection. The all-star indie cast of THE OFF HOURS is rounded out by Lynn Shelton (HUMPDAY), Scoot McNairy (MONSTERS), Tony Doupe (CRIMES OF THE PAST), Bret Roberts (THE VIOLENT KIND) and newcomer Gergana Mellin.
CAST / CREW
Megan Griffiths - Writer/Director
For the past decade, Megan Griffiths has been an active member of the independent film community. Megan received her MFA in Film Production from Ohio University School of Film. While in school Megan wrote, directed and edited three award-winning short films (her thesis film not Waving but Drowning, was a 2001 Student Academy Award nominee). Megan made her debut feature First Aid for Choking after relocating to Seattle, followed by the narrative shorts Moving and Eros and the short documentary KEXP: The B-Side. Megan has produced such projects as the acclaimed 2007 Sundance documentary Zoo, and the upcoming Sundance absurdist buddy comedy The Catechism Cataclysm. In 2010, Megan shot and completed her second feature The Off Hours, a film she also wrote. Starring Amy Siemetz as a restless small-town diner waitress, the all-star indie cast of The Off Hours also includes Lynn Shelton (Humpday), Ross Partridge (Baghead) and Scoot McNairy (Monsters).
Amy Seimetz – Francine
Amy Seimetz grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and studied film, English literature and art history at FSU and NYU. She has spent time in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Florida and New York, as has worked in independent film in a variety of capacities for many years. Seimetz has performed comedy for years along with Ann Maddox (who appears in Sundance 2011 selection The Catechism Cataclysm) as Machu Picchu, performing at Comedy Deathray, UCB, Comedy Store, and the HBO comedy fest in Las Vegas. She has been a producer on several notable projects, including Medicine for Melacholy (directed by Barry Jenkins) and Silver Bullets (directed by Joe Swanberg). As an actress she has appeared in Joe Swanberg’s Alexander the Last (SXSW 2009), Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture (SXSW 2010), David Mitchell’s Myth of the American Sleepover (SXSW 2010, Cannes 2010), Adam Wingard’s A Horrible Way to Die (Toronto 2010, winner "Best Actress" Fantastic Fest 2010), Joe Maggio’s Bitter Feast (LA Film Fest 2010), Megan Griffiths’ The Off Hours (Sundance 2011), and Joe Swanberg’s upcoming Silver Bullets. She also wrote and directed a feature film entitled City on a Hill, which took part in the 2009 IFP Director’s Labs. She continues to stay busy in all facets of production and has several projects on the horizon as an actress, a producer, and a filmmaker.
Ross Partridge – Oliver
Ross starred in the critically-acclaimed Duplass Brothers’ filmBaghead, released by Sony Pictures Classics after premiering at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. He also recently appeared in Katie Aselton's The Freebie (Sundance 2010). Ross wrote and directed the feature film Interstate 84, starring Kevin Dillon and Clifton James, which was executive produced by Kevin Spacey and premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. He is a co-producer on the Duplass Brothers upcoming film Do-Deca-Pentathlon, and was also producer for Trigger Street Productions, most notably on the award-winning documentary film Uncle Frankand the PBS 9/11 documentary America Rebuilds. Upcoming projects include Steven Schardt and Sean Nelson’s upcoming filmTreatment, co-starring Joshua Leonard, The Lake Effect with Kay Pannbaker, Devon Gummersal’s Low Fidelity, and Feed the Fish, alongside award-winning actor Tony Shaloub and Barry Corbin
Scoot McNairy – Corey
Scoot was nominated for Best Actor at the 2010 British Independent Film Awards for his work in the critically acclaimed film Monsters from director Gareth Edwards. His film In Search of a Midnight Kiss, which he both starred in and produced, won the John Cassavetes award at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards. Scoot and his longtime friend and Manager John Pierce formed The Group Films to actively pursue their independent film dreams. Currently The Group Films is in pre-production on two projects, Frank and Cindy and The Last Time I Made Straight A's. Scoot-
McNairy.jpg Tony Doupe – Stu
Tony was in Megan's 2008 short filmMoving and has a long and varied career as a Seattle character actor, with roles in Butterfly Dreamingand Crimes of the Past, and appearances on “Leverage”, “Northern Exposure”, and “The Fugitive”.
Lynn Shelton – Danielle
Lynn has recently gained widespread acclaim for her hilarious and insightful comedy Humpday, which premiered at Sundance in 2009 and has gone on to play in theaters internationally and earn Lynn a 2010 Film Independent Spirit Award. Since Humpday, Lynn has directed a web-series for MTV called $5 Cover: Seattle as well as an as-yet-untitled project starring Mark Duplass, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Emily Blunt. Lynn is also serving as a consulting producer on The Off Hours.
Gergana Mellin – Jelena
Gergana began her career in Bulgaria as part of the Bulgarian Drama Theater. She also hosted the Bulgarian Cabaret for over 150 live shows. Gergana relocated to the US and has since done multiple independent films and theatre shows in Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York.
Bret Roberts – Ty
Since his film debut in the 2001 blockbuster Pearl Harbor, Bret has portrayed a wide range of characters, from the Nightstalker to Jim Morrison. Recently, he has appeared in The Violent KindEverything Will Happen Before You Die, which he also produced. (Sundance ’10) and the forthcoming
Alycia Delmore - Mandy
Alycia was the third corner of the unlikely love triangle portrayed in Lynn Shelton’s Humpday, and recently appeared in the short film Annie Goes Boating (SXSW 2010) and the feature Late Autumn.
Production Team Biographies
Mischa Jakupcak – Producer
Mischa Jakupcak graduated from The London Film School and has been working in independent film in the Northwest for the past five years. She has worked on over thirty feature films including Late Autumn and The Ward and is currently producing features.
Lacey Leavitt – Producer
Lacey Leavitt is a Seattle-based producer whose credits include Todd Rohal's The Catechism Cataclysm (also premiering at Sundance '11), Dan Brown's Your Lucky Dayand two of Megan's short films, Moving and Eros. She is the board president for IFP/Seattle, the Northwest chapter of the nation's largest non-profit film organization. Lacey co-directed and produced the award-winning roller derby documentary Blood on the Flat Track (Strand Releasing) and is now a Rat City Rollergirl.
Joy Saez – Producer
Joy Saez resides in Los Angeles and serves as a freelance producer/line producer for Alter Ego Industries, Inc. and Acquisitions Consultant for Shoreline Entertainment. She produced Annie Goes Boating (SXSW '10) and Some Boys Don’t Leave (Tribeca '10 Winner "Student Visionary Award") starring Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network).
Benjamin Kasulke – Director of Photography
Ben has shot a large number of recent festival favorites, including Humpday, The Freebie, Scout's Honor, Brand Upon the Brain! and Megan's own short film Eros. Ben and Megan have been working together in the Seattle film community for nearly a decade. In addition to The Off Hours, Ben also shot two other 2011 Sundance festival selections: The Catechism Cataclysm andThe Lie.
Ben Blankenship – Production Designer
Ben designed both Megan’s recent short films Moving and Eros. He has also worked on numerous national commercials and Seattle features such as The Details (starring Toby McGuire and Laura Linney) and Late Autumn (starring Tang Wei and Hyun Bin).
Rebecca Luke - Costume Designer
Rebecca is an expert in the field of sustainable style and the co-founder of the international non-profit Sustainable Style Foundation. She designed the costumes on The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, The Whole Truth, and Megan's 2008 short film Moving. The Off Hours received the SSF Tag, the Sustainable Style Foundation’s seal of approval, due to our efforts to incorporate sustainability into our production model.
Vinny Smith – Sound Design
Vinny Smith is a staple in the Seattle film community. He is a frequent collaborator with Lynn Shelton, working in both production and post on her four features (We Go Way Back, My Effortless Brilliance, Humpday, and Lynn’s most recent as-yet-Untitled project) and two web-series “What the Funny” and “$5 Cover: Seattle.” Vinny also worked on Megan’s short film Moving.
Joshua Morrison and Jeramy Koepping - Composers
Singer/Songwriter Joshua Morrison's debut CD, Home, was handed to Megan at the very early stages of development for The Off Hours and it's rarely been off her playlist since. When The Off Hours was in production in early 2010, Joshua was in active military service completing his final tour in Iraq. This past summer Joshua Morrison became a civilian, leaving behind the rigors of years spent as a green beret and medic. He collaborated with long-time friend Jeramy Koepping (of Grand Hallway and Voyager One) to create the beautiful and haunting score for The Off Hours. Joshua, backed by Jeramy Koepping and Matthew Brown (of Trespassers William), has also just completed his 2nd album BUILDER, a record he started nearly two years ago.
The Off Hours has been a labor of love for me for the past seven years. Though it has gone through many incarnations, it was only when the final cast had assembled for the 2010 shoot that the film found its legs. The actors, led by the amazing Amy Seimetz, breathe authentic life into their characters, all while remaining faithful to the tone and style of the script. It is on their shoulders that this ensemble character-driven drama rests, and they bear the burden with humor and humanity. Supported by the gorgeous work of cinematographer Ben Kasulke, production designer Ben Blankenship and costume designer Rebecca Luke, the performances resonate strongly against a bleak and lonesome industrial small town backdrop. I couldn't be more proud of the work of the stellar cast and crew that came together to make this film. They truly justified the years spent making this film happen.
-Megan Griffiths, Writer/Director
The Off Hours is the first-ever film to receive the SSF Tag, the Sustainable Style Foundation's stamp of approval. Efforts were made across the production in each department to make environmentally and socially responsible choices. Director Megan Griffiths and the rest of the production team wanted to create an example that could realistically be followed by future productions, large or small. No one is perfect, but when a production makes it a priority, shooting green is not so out of reach.
Based on this production's experience, here are Megan's top five tips for a sustainable set:
1. BUYING LOCAL
Stocking the craft service table and catering truck with locally produced goods makes a huge impact on the footprint of your production. Not only are you reducing the amount of gasoline and oil utilized to transport food from far off places to your crew's stomachs, but you're also supporting your local economy. This goes beyond the fruit and vegetables you get at your local farmers' markets--most cities have local brands of chips, sodas, energy drinks, coffee, candy, etc, which are as good or better than national brands.
2. UTILIZING SECOND HAND ITEMS
Part of the reason productions have such a large individual impact is that each film is approached as a separate and unique enterprise. The truth is that the basic needs of many productions are very similar--and not only that, but the items needed to build a set are the same items needed to build houses, vehicles, etc. Visiting second-hand stores for building supplies, fixtures, furniture and clothing is great for both the environment and your budget. And you can donate everything at the end of production so that it can be reused again by someone else.
3. RECYCLING & COMPOSTING
On set and in the production office, recycling and composting can make a giant difference. The amount of water bottles and paper that are thrown away on the average set is almost criminal. It's the responsibility of the production to create a culture on set where recycling and composting are encouraged and supported. Given the right level of commitment, films at any budget level can take this step to reduce their impact.
4. SHOOTING DIGITALLY
Film is beautiful, but environmentally toxic, and videotape is practically impossible to dispose of responsibly. While technological waste has a big impact of its own, shooting digitally and backing your media up to hard drives is the most environmentally sound method around. Hard drives are reusable, and can be recycled by special vendors if and when they cease to function.
5. REUSABLE RECEPTACLES
If the budget allows, providing water bottles and travel mugs to your crew is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. If you're working on a smaller budget, encourage the crew to bring their own from home (most people have them), or at the very least to label and re-use their disposable water bottles and coffee cups more than once. If every person on a 50-person crew drinks three waters a day, that can add up to 150 plastic items added into the waste stream each and every day. Over the course of a feature shoot that becomes thousands and thousands of water bottles entering landfills on your watch. Don't let it--provide a water cooler and receptacles for your crew, and ask your caterer to provide dishware and utensils at mealtime that can be washed and reused rather than thrown away.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Now Available on Netflix Instant
THE OFF HOURS is now available to watch on Netflix Instant! Of course if you want the special features the film is also available on DVD via this very site (just click the PayPal icon to the right and have it sent to your doorstep!)
Our soundtrack is also available for instant purchase. Click the icon to your right to download the beautiful tracks composed by Joshua Morrison and Jeramy Koepping!
Friday, December 23, 2011
This week The Off Hours hit a notable milestone--we were tweeted about by Roger Ebert! Writer Jeff Shannon wrote an article for Ebert's VOD column about the film which was thoughtful and lovely and which has been making quite the rounds in the social networking sphere. Jeff also touted the phenomenal Seattle filmmaking community and several other local filmmakers, including our consulting producer Lynn Shelton. We were beyond thrilled to feel the acknowledgement of both Jeff Shannon and Roger Ebert, and we'll be saving this image for a good, long while:
Posted by Megan
Friday, December 16, 2011
THE OFF HOURS is available On Demand!! Simply look in the "Movies" section of your On Demand menu and find the "Film Movement" folder in the Independent Film menu ("Indies and Foreign" on Comcast). We will be available through COMCAST, VERIZON, AT&T, and most major cable networks. Unfortunately, THE OFF HOURS is not available on DirecTV. We should be available on Hulu beginning in May 2012. We do not yet have a release date for Netflix, but you can help show them that there is a demand for the film by finding THE OFF HOURS page (search by our name) and adding the film to your queue, rating it highly and, if you want to really help, write a (good) review! You can also rate and review the film positively at IMDB.com. Industry folks put stock in ratings and reviews, so this is a great way to help THE OFF HOURS see a wider release. Thanks so much everyone! Very excited to get THE OFF HOURS into your homes!
Posted by Megan
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
INDIE SPIRIT AWARD NOMINATION
This morning Kate Beckinsale and Anthony Mackie announced the 2012 Independent Spirit Award nominees, which included a cinematography nod for our own Benjamin Kasulke for his much-lauded work on The Off Hours. Ben's in some illustrious company, including Darius Khondji, an Oscar-nominated DP who's up for his work on Woody Allen's new film Midnight in Paris. We're stoked for Ben and will be rooting for him when the winners are announced in February!
Posted by Megan
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
We are thrilled to announce that THE OFF HOURS will soon be released in theaters, on VOD, and through a variety of digital platforms! This announcement is the culmination of many, many years of hard work, passion, and diligence, and we are grateful to everyone who has supported and nurtured the film along it's long and winding path.
New York-based company Baxter Brothers will be handling our theatrical release in partnership with Cinemad Presents. The film will not have a traditional release, but will be programmed at independent theaters around the country over the course of the next several months.
Film Movement will release the film in homes everywhere on most major VOD platforms (Comcast, Time Warner, etc) beginning on December 9th and then on digital platforms such as iTunes and Amazon soon afterwards.
Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter accounts to find out details about when THE OFF HOURS will come to your local theater, your living room & your laptop!
Check out our full newsletter for more, plus cast and crew news! And sign up right at the bottom this page to get our newsletter to your very own inbox!
Posted by Megan
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
MEGAN IN SEATTLE MAG
Each year Seattle Magazine spotlights five artists from Seattle who are making good things happen in their respective fields. This year, they saw fit to include Megan. Check out the article and accompanying diner-chic photo.
Posted by Megan
TACOMA FILM FESTIVAL CLOSING NIGHT FILM
We are very honored to announce that the Tacoma Film Festival will screen The Off Hours as its closing night film on 10/13 at 6:30pm.
Posted by Megan
NEW YORK PREMIERE
The Off Hours will be having its New York premiere next week with director Megan Griffiths, producers Lacey Leavitt and Joy Saez and several members of our cast and crew in attendance! September 21st at 7:30pm at 92YTribeca. Check this link for details. We would love to pack this screening, so please share this link and tell all your NYC friends to join us next week!
Posted by Megan
** Matthew Lucas Super Reviewer | Rotten Tomato
Bland, film-schooly mosaic about a group of disparate people who all frequent the same lonely truck stop. An interesting premise is done in by flat characters and bland direction, ultimately leading nowhere.
Q & A With The Off Hours' Megan Griffiths: Edward Hopper Diners, Prop Movie Fries + Diner Booth Migration Patterns
MARGY ROCHLIN | FEBRUARY 9, 2012 | www.laweekly.com/
Lost souls at all-night diners have been explored on the big screen before. But from the opening montage of The Off Hours, with its quietly melancholic images of customerless four-tops, upended coffee cups and a scraper sitting on a worn-out greasy griddle, it's clear that Seattle-based writer-director Megan Griffiths knows how to capture the isolating loneliness of a restaurant when the city is sleeping.
Called "the reverse angle of a road movie" by Variety, this low-budget, dreamily paced drama about a loose community of sad-eyed waitresses, rumpled truck drivers, shuffling regulars and a burnt-out fry cook is now available on VOD and on The Off Hours' official website. In November, it was announced that The Off Hours' godhead director of photography, Benjamin Kasulke, received a nomination for Best Cinematography from the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards (to be presented Feb. 25 in a big, white beachfront tent in Santa Monica).
Recently, Griffiths spoke to Squid Ink about her quest to find the perfect diner location, how leatherette booths can migrate and why raw food is on her agenda when visiting Los Angeles.
Squid Ink: How did you come up with the idea of setting The Off Hours in a truck-stop diner?
Megan Griffiths: For a little while I worked the night shift at a film lab. Some of the people there had been working the night shift for 10 or 15 years. It was interesting to me how they went through their day. They just seemed like they weren't ambitious or hopeful anymore. When you're working those hours you have much, much fewer interactions with people. You see so few actual human beings in your daily life. I think it just has an effect on people. That's what I was interested in exploring: a population of people who didn't really feel like they could pursue their dreams anymore.
SI: How does a film lab morph into an all-night diner?
MG: I wanted to remove it from my initial environment and put it in a place that I thought would be aesthetically interesting. But I also wanted a place where passersby would come through and there would be new faces daily.
SI: Yours is a very classic Edward Hopper Nighthawks diner -- almost empty, moody. There are so many kinds of diners to choose from -- how did you end up with that one?
MG: I thought, "No, I don't want it to be a '50s theme diner." "No, I don't want it to be a country kitsch diner." But the '70s diner, the kind that feels like it just got lost in time? That's where I thought the story fit the best.
SI: How long did it take to find the diner that lived up to the one in your imagination?
MG: I scouted for diners for four years. I'd been to every single one that I could find and I hadn't found the one that I thought was right for the movie until about three weeks before we started shooting. This guy suggested Ed's #1 and I drove by and was like, "Oh, yeah. This will work!"
SI: Where was Ed's #1?
MG: It was in Burian, Wash., which is just a little south of Seattle. It's been closed for a few years. When we discovered it, it was pretty much of a shell. There wasn't a kitchen or booths or chairs. It was all gutted. Then I brought my production designer to see it and he was depressed.
MG: It was such a huge, huge undertaking to turn it back into a beautiful place. They had to clean all the grease off of the walls, then paint the walls a different color, then put more grease back on so that it looked like an old diner. They had to find old kitchen appliances to fill the space. We brought the whole thing back to life. We made it look like a diner that you could actually eat in.They ended up getting the booths from the grocery store across the way. [When Ed's #1] closed, it sort of migrated across the parking lot.
SI: Booth migration? How does that even work?
MG: Basically there was this grocery store across the way that opened up a café. It was an amazing deal. Your whole breakfast with coffee and everything was under $4. When we found Ed's #1, the location manager sort of followed this "For More Information" sign to the grocery store. That's where he got a lot of information about the diner and what had become of it. Apparently, there had been this one owner of the diner for 40 years and he was a notorious cheapskate. He always drank out of the same styrofoam cup and wore the same blazer every day of his life. He finally closed the doors on Ed's #1 and sold the booths to the café in the grocery store.
SI: Then what?
MG: All of the people who had been going to Ed's #1 started going to the café in the grocery store. When the booths arrived, they would sit in each of them and figure out where their butt groove was. That way they were able to tell whether or not it was their old spot. Then they'd sit in their old booths and have the same conversations they'd always had. They just changed the location by about 100 yards.
SI: Diner food tends to run the gamut from "simplicity on a plate" to regrettably stomach-churning. Did you have a go-to order during your four years of location scouting?
MG: My producer could tell you the answer to this question because she was always with me. I'd always order poached eggs on an English muffin with tomato slices and hash browns.
SI: Poached eggs? That was not the diner food answer we expected.
MG: Well it's something that a diner can do that is not super-duper greasy but is still standard diner fare. I have certain dishes that I order at any given type of restaurant, a barometer dish. Like with Thai food, it's the Pad See Ew.
SI: The Off Hours begins with a montage of hauntingly sad diner images. Have you ever worked in a diner?
MG: No. But I would go to diners late at night and drink a cup of coffee and look around. I'm a people watcher, an observer. I just kind of absorbed a lot of stuff. I worked on getting this film up and running for five years. I had a lot of time to go and experience that universe, just watch what people did when it was slow. Refilling the salt shakers, clearing the dishes.
SI: Where did the prop diner food -- the slices of pie, the French fries -- come from?
MG: Some of it they would purchase from other diners. Occasionally, they would make something in-house. They'd have to use the microwave. We tried to make the food palatable, but it could be pretty disgusting. There's a scene where a [waitress character] walks in and finds a truck driver [friend] there in the middle of the day and she starts eating his fries. If you look closely, the fries that she's picking up? It's the most disgusting-looking fry. And she was actually eating them -- which is impressive. [laughs]
SI: How much was The Off Hours made for?
MG: Our budget was considerably under $100,000. During production we had less than that. We were getting money as we were shooting.
SI: When you make a movie for that little, what kind of craft services table can you possibly pull together?
MG: We had a person who was finding us sponsors. She got a lot of people to donate food. So we had a decent selection of food. But we didn't have a craft services person. The producers manned the craft table, making tofurky sandwiches and stuff and passing them around. It was meager. But not as meager as you might think.
SI: You've done some casting out of Los Angeles. Where are your favorite places to eat here?
MG: I'm a vegetarian. L.A. has a lot of great, specialized vegetarian restaurants. I go to Real Food Daily. There's a place I love: Euphoria loves Rawvolution.
SI: That is a name that's so bad it's like they're daring you to go there.
MG: I haven't experienced a lot of raw food to write home about. But they have food so amazing that a non-raw food person would like it. I got a taco salad that had ground-up walnuts, avocado and tomatoes. It was amazing. So good.
SI: You're from Moscow, Idaho. Tell us: Where do we eat on Main Street?
MG: [long pause] I am wracking my brain. [long pause] Of course! Mikey's Gyros! They make great Greek food, but they also make amazing soups. They make an outstanding lentil soup. But they don't have the same soup twice. They just keep making new and interesting types of soup. I had an African peanut soup once. It had a great flavor.
SI: Your latest movie, Eden, is premiering at South by Southwest, correct?
MG: Yes! I've never had something that I've directed play there, but it's a really fun festival to be at. Eden is such a serious film to take to such a fun festival so we'll see how that goes. It's about human trafficking. It's based on a true story of a woman who was abducted and kept in a storage facility in Las Vegas for over two years. It's sort of a complicated survival story.
SIFF MOVIE: The Off Hours (2010)
Genre: Drama, Indie
Cast: Amy Seimetz, Ross Partridge, Tony Doupe, Scoot McNairy, Gergana Mellin, Lynn Shelton, Bret Roberts, Madeline Elizabeth
Francine is a young woman living in a rural Washington town whose life pretty much revolves around her dead-end, night-shift job at a local truck stop diner and a string of sexual encounters with pretty much anyone who seems interested, mostly in dingy bar and restaurant bathrooms (and, oh, honestly, is there anything more depressing than cheap sex in public restrooms? Blargh).
It’s not much of a life and she knows it. But she feels stuck, trapped. She’s been there so long (12 years) she seems to have forgotten she ever had options, and the people she’s close to are similarly cycling and recycling through their own personal circles of hell: her boss, Stu, an alcoholic divorcé with a teenage daughter he rarely sees; Jelena, a middle-aged Serbian waitress who spends her off hours sleeping with truckers in her motel apartment; and Corey, Fran’s roommate and foster brother, who’s so furiously in love with her he can hardly stand talking to her anymore.
One night, Francine spots a new face at the diner. She introduces herself, pours him some coffee, and the two begin to chat — his name’s Oliver, he’s a truck driver who’s just started a new route, he’s married with two kids, blah blah. Over the next few weeks, they become friends — him looking for her through the diner windows as soon as he pulls into the parking lot, her face lighting up as soon as she spots him. Turns out he’s sort of on the other side of “stuck;” he was a banker for ten years and when his branch closed, he decided he was tired of a 9-to-5 existence and took a leap into the life of trucking just to try something new. Now he’s hardly at home, always on the move, his wife growing more and more frustrated by the week. Unstuck in some ways, for sure. But perhaps more stuck than ever in others.
When a series of things go wrong at roughly the same time, it seems to dawn on Francine at last that she’s in charge of her own destiny. With a line of nudges all giving her a collective shove, she decides it’s time to unstick herself. How she does it is the final scene of this mesmerizing, gorgeously-made film, and it takes what is otherwise a painful story of desolate, dark sadness and drops a light right into it. A flare goes up. And you leave the film knowing Francine’s gonna be just fine.
Goddamn, I loved that final scene.
In fact, there were so many things I loved about this haunting film I hardly know where to begin. The acting is incredible, the writing is tight and authentic, the story is engaging and relateable, and the visuals — wow. I’ve heard people raving about local cinematographer Ben Kasulke for years, and though I’ve seen a few of his other films, this is the first time I really understood what all the hoopla was about. The colors, the crispness, the still shots, the long shots — this movie does everything visually great art is supposed to do. It moves you; it picks you up and takes you right to it. And it does it subtly, quietly, perfectly. In between scenes, there were often quick stills of images from around the town — a beat-up truck here, a broken rocking chair there, an angled shot of the diner counter that made it look like it went on forever (oof, so great), a close-up of Francine’s face that showed every pore of loveliness and despair. By the middle of the film, I found myself wishing I could get a print of every single one of those shots to frame and hang on a wall where I’d see them every day. They were that good.
They were lovely, in fact. In fact, lovely is the right word for every element of this film.
This film is lovely.
Highly, highly recommended. And I can’t wait to see what director/writer Megan Griffiths does next. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take her a decade to make her second film (as this one did), because the world shouldn’t have to wait so long to be so incredibly moved again. A masterpiece.