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SXSW REVIEW | Sophia Takal's "Green" Has Eerie Sexual Dynamics, But Stops Short of Being A Thriller

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire March 15, 2011 at 5:49AM

As a quiet, tense and near-experimental sexual thriller, "Green" is effectively haunting. However, writer-director-star Sophie Takal doesn't provide the full-bodied story needed to make its tantalizing ideas come together. Nonetheless, "Green" announces the arrival of a young storyteller with a distinctive vision, even if it's sometimes a bit murky.
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As a quiet, tense and near-experimental sexual thriller, "Green" is effectively haunting. However, writer-director-star Sophie Takal doesn't provide the full-bodied story needed to make its tantalizing ideas come together. Nonetheless, "Green" announces the arrival of a young storyteller with a distinctive vision, even if it's sometimes a bit murky.

The story begins with the ramblings of mumblecore on autopilot as a group of twentysomething hipsters sit around at some undefined house party, speaking with false authority about their literary knowledge. The camera settles on the garrulous Sebastien (Lawrence Michael Levine) and his soft-spoken girlfriend Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil), establishing the imbalance of their relationship just before things get really complicated. When the two move out to the country so that journalist Sebastien can develop his research on sustainable farming, they receive an unexpected visitor -- the ebullient Robin (Takal) shows up at the house they sublet, in need of a place to crash.

A sweet-natured woman lacking the couple's forced urban sophistication, the charming Robin (whose fake southern accent is the performance's one weak spot) invades their life, convincing Genevieve to overcome her shyness. Perhaps indirectly, Robin also appears to seduce the self-interested Sebastien. However, that last development might only take place in Genevieve's mind as she starts to experience a misdirected sense of jealousy and grow emotionally unstable.

With a moody score that drifts through each scene and luscious outdoor photography, "Green" contains appreciable audio-visual appeal even when the narrative starts to drift. The core situation hold so much potential that the lack of payoff detracts from its lasting impact. At 77 minutes, "Green" ends too abruptly, right when Genevieve's transition from introvert to sexual aggressor starts to gain momentum.

But Takal, last seen in the comparatively whimsical "Gabi on the Roof in July" (directed by Levine, a producer on "Green"), leaves the entire plot of the movie unspoken, a bold move. Each scene has an almost ghostly feel, particularly once Genevieve begins to project her insecurities onto Robin and Sebastien, imagining that they have started having an affair. The source of suspense lies entirely within one character's fragile mind.

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Too weird for mass distribution, "Green" probably won't play much beyond the festival circuit, but should help Takal as she continues on her promising career.

criticWIRE grade: B+

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