Wednesday, October 12, 2011


WITHOUT                 C+                  
USA  (87 mi)  2011  d:  Mark Jackson               Without Official Site

This is for the most part a surprisingly uninvolving film, shot entirely on Whidbey Island located at the northern end of Puget Sound and about 30 miles north of Seattle, attainable by ferryboat, where the location alone may be of some interest to viewers, yet nearly the entire film is shot indoors, with just a handful of views of the area.  While shot on video, which dulls the natural colors, part of the problem appears to be the lead actress, Joslyn Jensen, who turns out to be something of a despicable character, seen all along as something of a ditz, a shallow 19-year old girl with few redeeming values, one of which seems to be her willingness to display herself naked on the Internet without any thought of the consequences.  She arrives on the island to look after Frank (Ron Carrier), an elderly man confined to a wheelchair living in a vegetative state, allowing the family to take a week’s vacation together.  Initially, Joslyn receives audience sympathy, as it’s exceedingly difficult to care for such a severely disabled individual, though there are early signs she’s in over her head as she finds it especially difficult to move him in and out of his chair.  Eventually, however, the director simply omits these shots, showing Joslyn instead casually running on an Exerciser, performing other fitness routines, while also making a daily run for coffee in the owner’s car.  There’s very little interaction between Joslyn and Frank, where he may as well be left to fend for himself parked in front of the cable Fishing Network while she spends nearly all of her idyll time by herself, with Frank completely out of the picture. 

It should be stated that Frank’s family left explicit instructions on how to care for Frank, listing pages of details, including how to set the remote to the proper channel and sound level, how to reprogram the TV if something goes wrong, what he likes to eat, how to use the dishwasher, washer, dryer, and other appliances, all contained in what they like to call The Bible.  Initially, Joslyn stares at The Bible religiously, not really knowing what she’s expected to do, but over time she’s simply on her own, ignoring Frank as much as possible.  Due to the remote location, there is no cell phone service and the family never plugged in the Internet, something she’s able to hook up with little problem, so she spends most of her time bored, staring at photos on her cell phone, where one in particular is seen over and over, including YouTube videos of the two of them together kissing.  There is an amusing routine of Joslyn waking up to her loud and overly aggravating cell phone alarm every morning, where day after day, her phone is never where she left it, except the one day she tapes it down to the desk overnight.  What evolves is next to nothing about Frank, the reason why she’s there, and almost everything about her, where the movie starts to feel like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007), where things tend to move in the night, where the story fits the horror profile of a girl left alone in a secluded wood, where bad things are expected to happen.

The director belatedly pulls things together by the end, where there is a strange side story concerning the girl in the picture, as her mom owns an art gallery on the island, revealing yet another side of this girl who’s blend of the real and the imagined are all a blur to her at times, where Joslyn actually starts suspecting Frank is locking the doors behind her or getting up in the middle of the night and moving her phone, getting aggravated that he’s really faking his disability, yelling and accusing him, though Frank’s given no reason to suspect him.  The whole mood shifts into a bizarre interior world, where Joslyn gets naked on the Internet and talks filthy dirty, looks at herself repeatedly in the mirror, begins to see scars or rashes that are gone by the next day, grows overly paranoid about Frank playing games with her, obsesses about the girl on her cell phone, goes out with a guy on the island that she knows is a creep, starts sneaking sips out of the liquor cabinet, and in just a few short days of utter monotony she’s already exhibiting signs of cabin fever.  One starts to wonder where they ever found this girl, as she seems utterly irresponsible and uniquely unqualified. The viewer fully expects Joslyn to lose Frank by the end of the week, where he’d be found mangled among some dead logs in a nearby creek, his face half eaten by wolves, or perhaps even murder him herself out of spite for having to put up with him all week.  After all, he was no help to her.  Whatever the expectations are, this first time writer, director, editor, and producer does not disappoint with the way matters resolve themselves, where there’s always a tinge of underlying ambiguity, but also a loathsome feel throughout most of this film for a girl so out of her depth. 

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