Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
June 21st, 2010

Rating: 3/5

Writer: Adam Reid
Director: Adam Reid
Cast: Sabrina Lloyd, Lynn Cohen, James Urbaniak, Harry Chase, Nate Smith

Writer and director Adam Reid goes the multi-story route with HELLO LONESOME, giving us three different (and not visibly linked) tales of people dealing with loneliness. Despite similar themes and feelings, our storylines do not interact. There’s no trickery here – no late reveal that someone is actually someone else’s daughter or that two of our previously unrelated characters used to be involved or anything of that nature. HELLO LONESOME is closer to a set of vignettes, three short films that question the same issues. What is loneliness? What is the difference between being alone and being lonely? How do we connect with other people? Is there inherent value to being alone (or even to being lonely)?

Voiceover artist Bill (Harry Chase, a real life voiceover artist whose work you will probably recognize the second he opens his motu) is, despite advancing from middle age into the autumn of his life, some sort of emotional fuck-up. Living alone in his big house, he spends his time working in his personal sound-proof booth, wandering the woods, and shooting things – all of this usually taking place in his underwear. His wife has left him and we watch Bill make innumerable phone calls to a daughter who never picks up (later, he apologizes for a number of grievances, so her refusal to speak to him makes perfect sense). The only person he has any real interaction with is his sarcastic delivery man (Kamel Boutros).

Widow Eleanor (Lynn Cohen) is suffering an empty life in nowhere suburbia. Her husband died two years ago. She appears to have no friends, children, or grandchildren. Her great pleasure and escape in life is driving her car, so when her license is taken away and she sells the vehicle, her loneliness is magnified. Suddenly, the only person she seems to know is her quiet neighbor, Gary (James Urbaniak).

Gordon (Nate Smith) may start with the most common and basic of loneliness (he needs a lady), but it’s his storyline that becomes the most emotionally resonant. When he meets Debby (Sabrina Lloyd) online, what starts as a one night stand blossoms into much more.

Reid is deft at handling set-ups – there’s a high level of Chekhov’s gun at work here (the famous literary technique the playwright often espoused on – “"If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there”). In terms of both personal neuroses and actual events, everything we need to know about the second half of the film is hinted at in the first half. Not to say there are not surprises in HELLO LONESOME, but Reid simply crafts things in an impressive way that are still more interesting and obvious in reflection.

But when the surprises come, they come full force. The second half of the film may be neatly set up by the first, but there are numerous tonal shifts that are unsettling. Whereas the changes in Gordon and Debby’s story are welcome and beneficial, our other two become increasingly off-putting. Eleanor and Gary’s relationship takes weird turns that weaken the aims of the story, Bill faces a trial that still seems unable to change his ways. It becomes harder than necessary to connect with these characters, and though we may understand the why of what’s going on, it’s ever more difficuly to agree with what’s played on screen. And though we have found moments of respite in HELLO LONESOME, when it’s all over, it’s a struggle to not feel even more marooned.


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