Monday 21 December 2020

Movie Review: Outside In (2017)

A drama and romance about second chances, Outside In interweaves three characters unmoored from their familiar lives.

In rural Washington State, Chris (Jay Duplass) is released from prison on parole after serving 20 years for murder. The crime occurred when Chris was 18, and his high school teacher Carol (Edie Falco) was instrumental in finally securing his release, working with a group advocating against mandatory minimum sentencing.

Now Chris struggles to fit back into society and emotionally leans on Carol as his only support, but she is unsure where Chris can fit into her life. Carol is trying to rescue a loveless marriage to Tom (Charles Leggett) and dealing with sullen teenager Hildy (Kaitlyn Dever). Meanwhile, Chris continues to resent his brother Ted (Ben Schwartz), who was also involved in the original crime but escaped punishment. Gradually Chris and Carol grow even closer, while Hildy forges her own connection with the released convict.

An independent production co-written by Duplass and director Lynn Shelton, Outside In is a heartfelt, human-scaled story about the struggle to detach from past anchors and seek new beginnings. With minimal melodramatics and an emphasis on quiet emotions, the film stays true to the grey reality of a small rain-soaked rural town (in this case Granite Falls, Washington) where change happens slowly if it happens at all.

While the pace is deliberate and some scenes are contextually stranded (notably, a through-the-window incursion into an undefined house), Shelton dives deep into the lives of Chris, Carol and Hildy to find shifting intersectionalities. Chris and Carol had established a rhythm through long phone calls when he was behind bars, but now their in-person interactions carry an awkward weight and need to be redefined. He has nothing but time on his hands and no one else to talk to, while she has a disintegrating marriage and emerging ideas about a new start in life.

And Hildy adds a curious dynamic. A teenager witnessing the dissolution of her parents' union and unimpressed by her mother's new-found interest in activism, Hildy withdraws metaphorically into angst and literally into the woods. When Carol rations her availability to Chris, her daughter steps in to fill the void. And with Chris halfway in age between mother and daughter but having lost the adult training phase of life in prison, the roles of guardian and learner sometimes meld and at other times fall through the cracks.

Jay Duplass is an introspected presence and occasionally defaults too quickly to bemused observer mode. Edie Falco thrives in one of her career highlights, creating in Carol a complex, caring woman approaching unexpected crossroads. Kaitlyn Dever delivers a welcome variant on the moody teenager persona, here adding hints of emerging adult empathy.

Tough as life is in prison, being an ex-con on the outside looking in also carries another set of challenges without a rule book.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.