By: debbie lynn elias
With the first frame of THIS IS OURS, one is swept up in the beauty and elegance of Jonathan Houser’s cinematography and drawn into this slice of life character study of a fractured relationship hiding behind the trappings of responsibility and the American Dream. Adding to the lush crispness and nuance of lighting and at times, breathtaking framing, in what has become almost a lost art within editing, the filmmakers embrace the dissolve as a transitory device. Not only does it have lovely visual appeal, but metaphorically propels the film forward into the story of Will and Karen.
In an obviously troubled marriage, the two have no chemistry, no common ground, no visible or emotional connection. Just watching the film, we know these two are doomed as a couple…particularly when there is an explosive blow-up during a game of Monopoly that sends Karen out to the local bar for solace. Meeting Eric, a carefree, good-looking guy with a bad boy edge (and who bears more than a strong romanticized resemblance to a youthful Will), Karen is swept into the fun of more carefree days, pre-Will and pre-18 year old daughter, when she had no responsibilities and answered to no one. But before making a potentially disastrous mistake, she walks away from Eric and heads home to distance and disgust with her marriage.
With Fate playing its hand, Will inadvertently meets up with Eric and his girlfriend Sandy and brings them home to meet Karen, believing that hanging out with another couple can save their own marriage. Little does he know that Karen and Eric have already met. Prodded by Eric and Sandy, and seeing some of their old selves in their devil may care, fly by the seat of their pants lifestyle, Will and Karen fall victim to carefree and irresponsible urges promulgated by Eric. But with the clarity of daylight, truth and life take some terrible turns.
Karie Gonia and Ernie Joseph tackle the characters of Karen and Will. Obviously perfect casting choices for the dynamic of the relationship at this juncture in time, there is never an emotional connection or chemistry between the two. They feel like strangers which bodes well for the crumbling marriage.
Just like Karen does with Eric, you can’t help but gravitate to Mark Carr. Giving Eric this slightly bad boy image, this is the guy that dads the world over have warned their daughters about. Sexy, nice, attentive with a carefree almost hippyish sensibility, Carr just sucks you in ever deeper, giving both Eric and the story unseen multiple layers, peeling them back like an onion. Disappointingly, with the film being primarily about Will and Karen, once Eric drives off in his RV, we don’t get a chance to find out what happens to him.
Wonder Russell is no stranger to me. Having seen her work in numerous festival shorts and features, she is always a welcome addition to any cast, and THIS IS OURS is no different. As Sandy, she is dichotomous. Confident, lost, naive and coquettish all rolled into one – a girl trying to find her way and nor afraid to admit her dreams or her trepidations.
Written and directed by Kris and Lindsay Boustedt, the core story is something we have seen before – a focus on midlife crisis. But with THIS IS OURS, the midlife crisis is affected by the economic crisis and comes much sooner in life. The ground work is quickly laid, zeroing in on a specific and current relationship, but is also given sufficient backstory to quickly bring us up to speed like a fly on the wall. At about the 45 minute mark, the carefree abandon and youthful rediscovery of life and self by Will and Karen thanks to Eric and Sandy, takes a maudlin turn into bitterness and regret that sets the stage for what is to come. Fueling the intimacy – be it happy or sad, good or bad – are close-ups and mid-close-up shots that are balanced against wider establishing exteriors that allow for one to breathe and reflect amidst the gorgeous greens and blues of a calming Mother Nature.
Outstanding is an interesting transposition of characters as one is initially feeling sympathetic towards Karen, trapped in a “lackluster” marriage, however, a major shift occurs and we are treated to the reality of who Karen is – someone who underneath a veneer of niceness is unlikeable, hateful and a user…much like Eric, who, I must say is an exceedingly well crafted character that represents both sides of the American Dream coin.
THIS IS OURS is a story that could be yours, mine or ours.
Written and Directed by Kris and Lindy Boustedt.