At last year’s Cannes, I was completely engaged by rookie David Robert Mitchell’s micro-budget indie The Myth of the American Sleepover (Critics’ Week), which is a deceptively simple reworking of the American Graffiti trope: a bunch of high school kids at summer’s end seek connection.
Shot on the Red digital camera in a Detroit suburb close to where the director grew up, the film lacks intellectual depth or rich dialogue, but Mitchell immerses you in the lives and slow minutia of these kids as they react to each other, looking, hoping, touching. Trained as an editor, Mitchell expertly manipulates the ebbs and flows of various groups of kids on bikes, in cars, moving, walking, boating. My favorite moment: a boy and a girl sit close on a bobbing float on a dark lake, feet dangling in the water, tingling with anticipation of a first kiss.
The teens are well-played by an ensemble of local unknowns—breakout Claire Sloma (pictured) just moved to LA. Developed with producer Adele Romanski while Mitchell was studying film at Florida State, the film took seven years to reach the screen and won a special jury prize for best ensemble cast at SXSW 2010. IFC Selects will launch the film in New York July 22 and Los Angeles July 29.
During a Q & A in Cannes last year, Mitchell said he recognized the challenge of forging a career in the current indie marketplace and held out hope for finding a more mainstream future as a director: he wants to keep on working at whatever level he can manage. (He’s credited as one of many editors of the 2010 Academy Awards show.) A bigger budget and more production time would help. This guy has chops.
[AP Photo of Claire Soma in Cannes 2010.]