By Gordon Foote.
When asked to review a film about a woman who slowly comes out of herself with the assistance of the man here to fix the pipes, I’ll be honest; I made certain assumptions about the kind of film being presented. Fortunately for the integrity of this website, he actually fixes the toilet…spoilers.
Given its rather porn-y premise, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Sparrows Dance is of the firm believe that if you put two people before a camera magic will occur and it will be enough to hold the audience’s attention. Wonderfully, the film is entirely correct in this assertion due to its smart scripting by Noah Buschel, excellent casting, and some very fine direction work, also from Buschel.
Sparrows Dance tells the story of former actress (played by ‘Homeland’s’ Marin Ireland, on top form) who abandoned her calling following a bout of stage fright and now spends her days in her flat watching TV, eating takeaway, and surfing the web, having not left the house for over a year. The first half-hour of the movie is dedicated to this, and manages to superbly juxtapose the crushing loneliness and clawing impotence of a person one step removed from human society, with the “Hey, that looks like my day off!” fun of not having to work. It shows Buschel’s faith in his material that he is willing to devote more than a third of his movie to this, giving the character time to over-come her own social inadequacies and win over the audience before another character is allowed to enter the fray.
Said “other character”, and the only other player in the piece, is Wes. Wes is a plumber who is forced into the life of the actress when her toilet overflows. A kind, earnest, genuine soul, brought to life by Paul Sparks (who some of you may know as Mickey Doyle in HBO’s excellent ‘Boardwalk Empire’). He revels in the role, instantly making Wes a likeable, identifiable individual who you want to see more of. You can fully understand why the actress breaks her run of isolationism to see him again. Ireland and Sparks bounce off each other wonderfully, forging a romantic centrepiece to Sparrows Dance which many more high profile/high budget offerings would kill for
Beyond the engaging performances, the film delivers on the script front too, with Buschel giving a refreshing twist on the tried and true rom-com formula (act 1: introduce couple and start romance act 2: some form of obstacle breaks couple up act 3: couple overcome obstacle and live happily ever after). It’s not entirely abandoned, but it’s pulled and poked at enough to give the film a rather charming new feel. As has already been discussed, the entire first act is dedicated to getting to know our central figure and the issues which plague her life, furthermore, the obstacles of act 2 and 3 never seem like big deals, more cattle-grids than pitfalls, as a result of Wes’ easy going nature and evident desire to help his new beau reintegrate into life. This removes that faux drama and replaces it with an overall narrative that clearly believes that if you put two wonderful people together, regardless of baggage, love should and will occur. As someone on the outside looking in, I can tell you, it’s a hopeful experience.
The direction, too, is fresh and interesting with moves as bold as framing shots far enough back to include the entire set, before panning back in to re-engage with our happy couple, and several scenes lit entirely by the neon red sign which blinks all night from outside the actress’ window. Touches such as these stick in the mind and continue to give Sparrows Dance a unique feel. It’s been some time since I watched a new romantic comedy which stuck in my mind more than a few minutes after the screening had finished, but Noah Buschel’s script and direction certainly managed.
That’s not to say the film is perfect, though. The sound quality is poor in places, making some (almost certainly) profound dialogue a struggle to make out, and the focus on the actress in the first act makes for some inconsistent story telling. It’s hard to imagine her asking Wes to dinner after meeting him only twice when you’ve seen her hurriedly pushing a takeaway menu back under her door, refusing even this level of interaction with the outside world. The speed of escalation in the couple’s relationship could also fall under this banner but, personally, I feel the film does excellently at not pushing its luck; realising there is a story to be told in its light premise and not overdoing it.
Sparrows Dance is a hopeful, funny, and engaging piece which kept me entertained throughout and left a wide smile on my face at its finale. Sparks and Ireland are excellent together and make the 81 minute running time fly by as they forge a deep and enviable relationship. Definitely worth a watch.
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