While people work hard to improve all aspects of their personal and professional lives, the continuous strain of intensive labor to achieve these successes can be physically and emotionally draining. Writer- director-editor-executive producer David Spaltro’s award-winning comedy-drama ‘Things I Don’t Understand,’ which had its final, and homecoming, New York screening at the 2013 Long Island International Film Expo (LIIFE) on Saturday, July 20 at Bellmore Movies, showcased how the filmmaker fearlessly drew on his own personal experiences to create the movie. The emotionally-charged characters, brought to life by memorable performances, will surely make viewers question where their own lives are headed, and what they can do to better themselves.
‘Things I Don’t Understand’ follows Violet Kubelick (Molly Ryman, who won the 2013 LIIFE Best Actress Award), a former prodigy student in her psychology and sociology graduate program, who now only cares about living in “the pressure-less expectation free zone.” After a failed suicide attempt, she decides to give up on her career and work at a minimum wage job at a local bookstore, enjoying her free lifestyle. But her ever-lasting fascination with the human condition of dying and the possibility of an after-life pushes Violet to continue on her thesis.
Violet’s therapist, Dr. Anne Blankenship (Lisa Eichhorn), encourages her to work at Our Lady of Hope, a Hospice where she meets Sara (Grace Folsom, who won the 2013 LIIFE Best Supporting Actress Award), a terminally ill girl. Sara helps Violet open up emotionally, allowing her to pursue a meaningful relationship with Parker McNeil (Aaron Mathias), the mysterious bartender who lives downstairs from her. Sara’s life is also turned up-side down when her and her two roommates, the drug-addicted musician Remy (Hugo Dillon) and the failed activist and performance artist Gabby (Meissa Hampton), face eviction from their rent-controlled loft.
The comedy-drama takes a memorable, realistic look into the life of young adults who are questioning what professional and personal choices they should be making in their lives. Violet insists to everyone, even herself, that she’s perfectly happy with her minimal responsibilities at work and her care-free, casual relationships. But once she’s faced with the possibility of losing the only true home she’s ever known, Violet takes a sympathetic turn, realizing there’s more important things in life than just always having a fun time.
Spaltro emotionally based the script on his own experiences, which effectively allows the audience to question what they would do if life makes changes for them that they’re afraid to make for themselves. Violet, who is unsure of her faith and trust in other people, creates a sentimental bond with Sara after learning about her illness. Violet also becomes more determined to fix the broken relationships in her life, after hearing about Sara’s hardships, including being abandoned by her mother and boyfriend after becoming sick. Learning that she needs to overcome her fear of commitment, Violet emotionally matures and wants to form bonds with Sara and Parker.
The New York-based filmmaker , who cast Ryman in his first film ‘…Around,’ made the right decision in hiring the actress to portray Violet in his second feature. Being that ‘Things I Don’t Understand’ was shot on a budget of $175,000, over 20 days in New York, and doesn’t feature many effects shots, the believability of the story heavily relies on the performances. Ryman didn’t fall under the pressure of carrying the majority of the film, and completely embraced Violet’s need for fun and more hidden desire for love.
While Spaltro has said Ryman loved the script when she read it, the actress was hesitant to accept the role of Violet, as she was afraid of the movie’s requirements. But she perfectly took her fears and channeled them into Violet’s experiences, showing that the fear of failure is something many people face. Ryman, like Violet, perfectly succeeds in any work she puts her mind to.
New York-based actress Folsom , who made her feature film debut in ‘Things I Don’t Understand,’ was another notable character who made a positive, noteworthy impact. Even though Sara is terminally ill and was abandoned by her family, the actress respectively played her as someone who still holds onto hope. After bonding with Violet, Sara’s will to live returns, encouraging her new friend to live her own life the way she wants, and do things that make her happy.
‘Things I Don’t Understand’ is an impressive follow-up effort to Spaltro’s first film, ‘…Around,’ as it not only features the lessons that people shouldn’t give up on their dreams and relationships, but it also includes memorable performances by the major actresses. Ryman and Folsom bonded with their characters and each other, showing that when people met someone who has a positive effect on their life, they strive to make themselves better. The comedy-drama also impressively reflects young adults’ desire to improve themselves, even though they are afraid to take the initiative to better their lives.