Alex LehmannUSA80 minutes2016B&WEnglish
Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts (Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson) reflect on their shared past through the lens of their differently dissatisfied presents, in this tender, wise and affecting chamber drama from first-time feature director Alex Lehmann.
Former high-school sweethearts Jim (Mark Duplass) and Amanda (Sarah Paulson) have been out of touch for more than 20 years — but by sheer coincidence, they run into each other at a grocery store back in their alpine hometown of Crestline, California. Jim's mother has died and he's here to put her house on the market. Amanda is visiting her pregnant sister. They get to talking, first over coffee, then over beer and jellybeans. Before they know it they're at Jim's mother's house, where everything sends them spiralling back into the past. Jim and Amanda's lives have taken different directions, yet here they are, reconnecting like nothing has changed.
Alex Lehmann's feature debut is a tender, wise chamber drama about finding yourself adrift in mid-life, longing for something essential that you fear has been lost. The tension in this film, a stateside cousin to Before Sunset, is generated through the uncertainty surrounding the renewed chemistry between Jim and Amanda. It's hard to know whether what they're feeling is pertinent to their present lives or a matter of pure nostalgia.
Handsome black-and-white imagery contrasts this human-scale story with the grandiosity of the mountains, but Lehmann's attention is squarely on his actors. Duplass has never been this vulnerable, while Paulson (Carol, 12 Years a Slave) is among the most versatile stars to emerge in recent years.
The pair of heartfelt performances acts as an anchor for the universal questions Blue Jay poses: Who were we then? Who are we now? And what remains of our dreams?