The Reception

John G. Young's claustrophobic second feature deals with many of the same thorny issues — race, class, sex and the insidious power of stereotypes — that drove his remarkably assured debut, PARALLEL SONS (1996). Set in upstate New York in the middle of a snowy winter, it's a chamber piece anchored by embittered, alcoholic, middle-aged Frenchwoman Jeanette...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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John G. Young's claustrophobic second feature deals with many of the same thorny issues — race, class, sex and the insidious power of stereotypes — that drove his remarkably assured debut, PARALLEL SONS (1996). Set in upstate New York in the middle of a snowy winter, it's a chamber piece anchored by embittered, alcoholic, middle-aged Frenchwoman Jeanette (Pamela Holden Stewart), who owns an elegantly restored farmhouse that she shares with Martin (Wayne Lamont Sims), a gay and substantially younger African-American painter. Martin and Jeanette are less than lovers but more than friends; their bond most closely resembles an intense parent-child relationship in which the roles of caretaker and dependent are amorphous and shifting. Still beautiful and vibrant, Jeanette is being diffidently courted by neighbor Chuck (Chris Burmeister), who abandoned a high-pressure career in law to raise llamas, but she backs away from anything more than flirtatious friendship. Martin, an obvious outsider in their near-rural community by virtue of being both gay and black, is limited (or perhaps restricts himself) to furtive encounters with local men. An unexpected visit from Jeanette's estranged daughter, Sierra (Margaret Burkwith), shatters the fragile equilibrium of their day-to-day existence. Sierra arrives with her new husband, Andrew (Darien Sills-Evans, of TV's Cosby and Third Watch), the Ivy League-educated scion of a conservative and prosperous African-American family, and intends to stay only long enough to discuss an inheritance her late grandmother promised her. But Jeanette insists they stay a few days so she can throw a wedding party. Liquor and lust unleash a torrent of frank talk that unmasks the lies and delusions on which all four have built their lives. This slightly stagy four-hander's handsome production values belie its $5000 shooting budget and eight-day schedule, but what really distinguishes it is the exceptional cast, which seems all the more exceptional considering that Burkwith and Sims are making their debuts and Stewart's credits are limited to a handful of small supporting parts (including several for Hal Hartley). Their subtle, complex performances could put far more experienced and better-known actors to shame.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: John G. Young's claustrophobic second feature deals with many of the same thorny issues — race, class, sex and the insidious power of stereotypes — that drove his remarkably assured debut, PARALLEL SONS (1996). Set in upstate New York in the middle of a sn… (more)

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