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Green | Review

Green with Jealousy: Love Triangle Tackled with Assurance

A common criticism of Mumblecore films is that the stakes are not high enough. It’s just ‘a bunch of whiny twenty-somethings, sitting around, complaining about their lives but doing nothing to change them.’ A more general audience, those gainfully employed over thirty-five, find the lack of plot and specifically the lack of immediacy or drama stifling, underwhelming. There is an alternative reading to even the most allegedly mundane Mumblecore films but something like Sophia Takal’s haunting debut Green should dispel the notion that this genre is essentially innocuous, merely light fare.

A personal essay on jealousy, Takal (writer/director/editor/actress) plays Robin, a deceptively open and caring neighbor who welcomes Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Sebastian (Lawrence Michael Levine) from New York to a small town where Sebastian plans to document his farming and brings his timid but pensive girlfriend with him. Sebastian and Genevieve love each other but his easygoing nature and her introspectiveness create a gap between them, one that is all too easily filled by Robin.

Slowly, almost invisibly, Robin seeps into their lives. While Sebastian begins to grow impatient with his farming blog (a somewhat lame hipster touch), Genevieve opens up and closes in on Robin, with her too wide eyes and smile, and nearly too revealing outfits. Robin (in every way to Takal’s credit) is always almost too flirty, skirting the line between friend and threat. Soon, the film follows Genevieve into her surrealist dream-life; a world of exaggerated glances and imagined sexual encounters. Through the use of voiceover and dreamlike moments captured out of focus in a sun-speckled forest, Genevieve walks through her nightmare, seeing Sebastian and Robin pleasure each other, in an unselfconscious, primal way she believes she never could.

This sexual frustration and emotional confusion is best displayed in a scene late in the film, which finds Sebastian and Genevieve in bed together. They are shown in a tight two-shot, with Genevieve on top of Sebastian, their faces filling the frame horizontally. Seeing them sideways puts the audience at once remove, unable to understand either’s point of view. Sebastian asks Genevieve to talk dirty to him, she refuses saying she prefers it when they’re silent. Both plead their case, both are unable to put the other’s pleasure before their own. There are few moments more personal in a relationship and the scene shows the closeness they share, the frankness of their speech, but also the distance between them, and how fragile the space between the two really is.

Scenes like this one play out in real time in one shot, this brings the audience close to them, caught in the middle of their triangle. In other scenes, we see the characters from afar, such as the scene where Genevieve and Robin walk through a county fair. Here, staying in the long take lends it an authentic feel. Shot on the Canon 5D Mark II, the small camera enabled the tiny crew to steal many shots, complete with unwitting extras, such as at the fair. Though that camera and ones like it are now ubiquitous and often misused to achieve a now bland and omnipresent ‘film look’ (read: too shallow depth of field), Takal and Co. use the camera to the best of its capabilities, to go out into the world and capture it, as is.

After the bedroom scene, Robin pushes a little more forcefully, openly. Everyone begins to see each other a little more clearly. And, finally, Genevieve acts, seeing herself as the jealous, hot-blooded person she’s become. In Green, Takal takes away all pretenses, until all that is left is desire; what you have, what you don’t and what happens when that gap begins to widen. And there is nothing Mumblecore about that.

Rating 3 stars

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Jesse Klein (MFA in Film and Video Production from The University of Texas at Austin) is a Montreal-born filmmaker and writer. His first feature film, Shadowboxing, (RVCQ '10, Lone Star Film Festival '10) . As well as contributing to IONCINEMA, he is the senior contributor to This Recording and writes for ION Magazine and Hammer to Nail. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (All About My Mother), Coen Bros. (Fargo), Dardenne Bros. (Rosetta), Haneke (The White Ribbon), Hsiao-Hsien (Flowers of Shanghai), Kar-wai (In The Mood For Love), Kiarostami (Close-Up), Lynch (Blue Velvet), Tarantino (Jackie Brown), Van Sant (To Die For), von Trier (Breaking The Waves)

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