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Review: ‘Abigail Harm’ Starring Amanda Plummer & Will Patton

Review: 'Abigail Harm' Starring Amanda Plummer & Will Patton

Abigail watches from a
distance as the man disrobes. A modestly-handsome Asian man, he has no name, and freely abandons his towel to dowse himself in a tub in the middle of an
abandoned studio space. She flinches, waiting for the right moment to seize the
towel, to trap him within his own nudity. He’ll be vulnerable, she believes,
and they’ll make love. She’s never found love in this city, and now this
stranger with bare skin with take her as her own, and she’ll feel valuable for
once in a life of solitude.

This is the setup for
experimental drama “Abigail Harm,” which provides a showcase for underlooked
veteran of stage and screen Amanda Plummer. Her Abigail is only the latest in a
long line of protagonists who can never find something and instead opt to take
it. She doesn’t seem fulfilled, but is otherwise content filling her days as a
reader for the blind, providing the eyes for those without them. Intimacy is a
foreign concept to her; she struggles through describing pornographic material
to one client (Burt Young) not because she’s turned off, but because the allure
of physical attraction eludes her.

One such elderly client (Will Patton)
takes enough of a shine to her that he makes her a promise; he’s going to tell
her where to find a man. He speaks of a memory that sounds abstract and
unreliable, talking about a stolen towel near a bathtub leading to a dalliance
that was purely physical, and completely fulfilling on a spiritual level. It
doesn’t seem that Abigail could find that exact specific setting, but when she
does, it feels so far removed from the film’s New York City setting that it
might as well be on Mars.

The man (Tetsuo Kuramochi) shrinks
and surrenders to her offering of a towel, but amusingly, he doesn’t
immediately sexually pursue her. Instead, he shows his thankfulness by
following her home on account of her pet-like urgings, as if he is indebted.
With very few words of English in his skill set, the two of them begin a
flirtation based on both of their obvious needs. As director Lee Isaac Chung
plays with montage and dream logic storytelling, it’s hard to see who is
falling for whom, and why. If anything, it’s almost like a jousting match, one
side daring the other to blink. The word “love” is tossed around: it feels like
it emerges from equal parts politeness, and desperate longing.

Plummer adds another
comfortably unreliable character to her gallery, turning Abigail into an older
woman with a schoolboy crush. She ultimately just wants to be needed, which
explains her occupation, and the film leaves it an open-ended question as to
whether the meeting of her needs is an idea of humanism or simply the longing
of just another New York life. “Abigail Harm,” which is narrated by Patton
(unclear if it’s in character or not) is small enough to fit on a New York
stage, and bringing it to the screen doesn’t give the story any more room to
expand. But Plummer’s depressingly ordinary loneliness provides the crux of the
picture, one that looks at how anyone can seek, and find, a substitute for
love. [B+]

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