Tallie Medel and Norma Kuhling in Fourteen
Tales of dysfunctional/codependent relationships are tough to nail down, which makes writer/director Dan Sallitt’s portrait of two friends even more of a heartbreaking triumph. Over the course of around 10 years, Sallitt follows Mara (Tallie Medel) and Jo (Norma Kuhling)—who have been friends since grade school—as Mara copes with the emotional volatility of Jo’s personality. Sallitt’s directing style tends toward long, sustained takes, which can lead to the deceptive early impression that this story will be chilly and formalistic. But here it allows the characters and performances a chance to shine—both Medel and Kuhling are low-key fantastic—capturing a relationship filled with a weight of decades of history. And Fourteen
nails the dynamic that complicates this friendship: Mara’s frustration that she’s always picking up the pieces of Jo’s messy life, and Jo’s despair that “there’s no thing that happened” in her past to offer an easy explanation for her mental-health rollercoaster. Parceling out information with patience and delicacy, Sallitt builds a remarkable portrait of how it feels to care deeply for someone you might not ever be able to “fix.” Available May 29 via UtahFilmCenter.org virtual cinema.
The High Note ***1/2
See feature review
. Available May 29 via VOD.
On the Record ***
Director Kirby Dick has previously explored the topic of sexual assault in the U.S. military (The Invisible War
) and on college campuses (The Hunting Ground
), but still finds disturbing and thought-provoking new issues surrounding the same harrowing subject. Co-directed by Dick’s frequent collaborator Amy Ziering, On the Record
focuses on Drew Dixon, a former successful recording industry executive who, in 2017, went public with allegations of rape and sexual harassment by her one-time boss, Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, in addition to allegations of sexual misconduct by successful music producer L.A. Reid. The filmmakers allow Dixon to tell her story on camera, while also observing as she awaits the fallout from telling that story to the New York Times
. And the film is unique in addressing the particular framework for this #MeToo story: a woman of color, accusing a powerful black man, stirring up issues of the way black women accusers—like Anita Hill—have been treated in the past, and a culture within African-Americans of not wanting to perpetuate stereotypes about sexually aggressive black men. While Dixon’s personal tale is harrowing, it becomes even more infuriating to think about structures that keep women of color silent because, as one interview subject notes, “who we decide to listen to is totally predicated on who we decide has value.” Available May 27 on HBOMax.