Afraid Of Everything

  • 1999
  • 1 HR 20 MIN
  • NR
  • Drama

All-American writer-director David Barker's frosty little gem about half-sisters rattling around in a chic New York apartment is an oh-so-European exploration of emotional claustrophobia. Israeli siblings Anne (Nathalie Richard) and Iris (Sarah Adler) haven't seen each other in 10 years. Anne moved to Paris when Iris, who recently turned 18, was still a...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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All-American writer-director David Barker's frosty little gem about half-sisters rattling around in a chic New York apartment is an oh-so-European exploration of emotional claustrophobia. Israeli siblings Anne (Nathalie Richard) and Iris (Sarah Adler) haven't seen each other in 10 years. Anne moved to Paris when Iris, who recently turned 18, was still a child; Anne now lives in New York with her husband, architect Donnie (Daniel Aukin). After an accident a year earlier, one of Anne's legs was amputated, but she's made an excellent physical recovery and, far from appearing depressed or fearful, is genuinely delighted when her impulsive, restless sister arrives for an open-ended visit and radiates quiet contentment. Anne is busy fixing up the apartment, she's always beautifully dressed and groomed, and the meltingly warm smile that seems to set off a glow under her skin is never absent for long. But although Anne talks about taking classes and visiting her parents, she hasn't gone outside in a year and her marriage has slipped into a state of vaguely dissatisfying companionship that neither Anne nor Donnie knows how to reinvigorate. So it falls to the compulsively provocative Iris to prod and needle them out of their psychic paralysis. Iris teases Donnie about his neatness and reserve, insists on broaching the subject of Anne's amputation when it's clearly the one topic that makes them profoundly uncomfortable and, finally, leaves out a postcard in which she tells a friend that Anne has encouraged her to seduce Donnie. This tightly-controlled three-person drama sounds like the kind of pretentious, pseudo-Bergman-esque exercise that just needs a dwarf to complete the picture, but it's not. It's cool and spare, but there's an essential lightness to the film's tone despite the heavy material, and Deborah Eve Lewis' glistening B&W cinematography is simply luscious. Barker elicits fine performances from all three leads, and well-known French actress Richard's English-language debut is a lovely addition to her extensive body of work.

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