A modest yet charming endeavour, Sophia Castuera’s feature-directing debut captures the directionlessness of post-grad life. Fresh out of an acting class, Cal (Ali Edwards) drifts between auditions and house parties, until her path crosses with childhood soulmate Jacob (Clay Singer). Sparks predictably fly between the floundering performer and the long-haired musician – yet Cal unexpectedly finds herself drawn to Jacob’s photographer girlfriend Emily (Lilli Kay). With the unpredictability of desire and attraction, Cal’s romantic conundrum is also imbued with chaos and restlessness, the classic ingredients of the quintessential quarter-life crisis.
At first glance, the film’s central dilemma, as well as its characters, appear to tread all-too-familiar ground. The developing rapport between Cal and Emily, for instance, is not always depicted with depth: at one point the film resorts to a musical montage to portray the pair’s growing bond during a photoshoot outing. This stands in contrast to recent offerings such as Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s Anaïs in Love, which imagines a similar menage a trois with much more flair.
Nevertheless, despite somewhat nondescript visuals, the film is elevated by the spirited presence of Edwards, who also wrote the script. Frequently framed in closeup, she brilliantly articulates the open-hearted vulnerability of her flighty protagonist. Oscillating between self-doubt and blind optimism, Cal is never alienating in her misguided daydreams, but rather relatable and moving. Edwards’ dynamic presence also lends a much-needed degree of authenticity to the film; other characters occasionally err on the side of tropey archetypes. An abrupt ending doesn’t help either but August at Twenty-Two remains a commendable first outing for Castuera and Edwards.
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