Alan Cumming in "Almost in Love." (Sam Neave, Argot Pictures )
The affections of the New Yorkers in the drama "Almost in Love" are unsteady, in flux, half-articulated. But director Sam Neave is unequivocal in his love for the two most gorgeous times of day, dusk and dawn, setting his improvising actors against the changing light. If the romantic fate of the central triangle never matters, the sumptuous wistfulness of the filmmaking does.
Neave shapes his story as a double dose of unrequited love that plays out at two parties, separated by a year and a half. Cinematographer Daniel McKeown weaves through each gathering in a continuous 40-minute take. More than a gimmick, that self-conscious visual strategy suits the self-impressed creative-class characters, even as it is, finally, more interesting than they are.
The sunset segment takes place entirely on the terrace of a Staten Island apartment with its sweeping view of New York Bay, which might well be one of the city's endangered waterfronts. Host Sasha ("Girls" regular Alex Karpovsky, less grating than in his own films) preps the barbecue, the night sky deepens and tensions rise. Sasha still pines for ex-girlfriend Mia (Marjan Neshat), and Kyle (Gary Wilmes), who recently dated her briefly, is soon drunk and belligerent.
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The story jumps from that scene's tender resolution to a boozy wedding-night party in the Hamptons (where Alan Cumming's participation feels like stunt casting). As in the movie's first half, the sound design is as mobile and expressive as the camera. Conversations fade in and out, overheard and overlapping.
Within the striking locations, a couple of supporting characters truly hold the screen: Adam Rapp's gambler and Dana Acheson's flirty sister of the bride, who turns a few seconds of reaction into a novella.
"Almost in Love." No MPAA rating. 1 hour, 23 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.
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