a_beautiful_now_3Year: 2015
Director: Daniela Amavia
Writer(s): Daniela Amavia
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: N/A
Digital, Color, 90 mins

Synopsis: A beautiful dancer hangs on the razor’s edge between reality and fantasy as she asks her friends to help her figure out the passions and relationships that have shaped who they are and who they will become. (Source)

A Beautiful Now, as its title suggests, is about how all we have is now. The past is over, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, and no matter how the present differs from our ideal version of it, it’s all we’ve got and we have to make the most of it. Surreal, lyrical and full of personal introspection, director Daniela Amavia makes a striking debut with a story that resonates far beyond its runtime. Replete with great performances from star Abigail Spencer and an ensemble cast with irresistible rapport, Amavia has crafted a haunting film about living life without regrets, the importance of being there for each other, and how we can’t let the darkness overshadow the light.

The premise is simple. On her birthday, Romy (Abigail Spencer) locks herself into a bathroom, bringing only a gun and a bottle of champagne. The act of desperation catches the attention of her best friend, David (Cheyenne Jackson), who dispatches their small, estranged circle of friends to stop Romy from doing something irreversible. As both parties confront their demons on opposite ends of a locked door, they each reminisce about the good and bad of their relationships to try and figure out where they went wrong – in doing so, they also remember how deep their bonds still are.

Told out of sequence and with plenty of visual and thematic alliteration, Amavia’s ambitious debut is a sensory experience that makes us feel and immerses us into the story. Taking a hallucinatory and dreamlike approach to her visuals, she evokes the way our memories work, returning and flashing by in a fractured and messy way, but always when we need them the most. Through it all, Amavia stitches an interwoven tapestry of regret, sadness and desperation, but also one of love and kindness. Thematically she refutes the idea that being a grown up means having it all figured out, with every piece of our lives always fitting the way we’d want, and that what’s more important is being able to take in all the good and the bad, using these opposing qualities to offset each other. The film even works as a love letter to the friends who we’re forever meant to share a bond with, regardless of occasionally falling out.

a_beautiful_now_2Adding to the film’s narrative and stylistic achievements, is a cast that is perfect together. Anchoring the film is Abigail Spencer, who who plays Romy, a disillusioned dancer. Playing the character that reunites her lost circle of friends, Spencer’s performance vividly brings the film’s themes to light, even when much of her scenes are solitary and essentially separated from the rest of the cast. It’s a really dark role, but one that she brings to life with grace and authority. The next standout is Cheyenne Jackson as Romy’s best friend, David. He probably has the second amount of screen time, holding it down with Romy’s friends just outside of the bathroom door. He’s a very charismatic leader of sorts, replete with a magnetic personality that acts as a nice compliment to Romy’s darker struggles. Really though, the entire ensemble of Romy’s friends each get their moment to shine throughout, with performers Sonja Kinski, Collette Wolfe, Elena Satine and Patrick Heusinger all bringing distinct personalities to well written characters. From passive aggressive jabs, heated arguments and even moments of solidarity, not many films capture the messy, intricate dynamics of close friends the same way that Amavia does here.

Though A Beautiful Now has a premise that is deceitfully simple, it turns out to be a nuanced, layered piece of work. Visually rich and brought together by Johnny Jewel’s pulsing score, the film is a labyrinth of emotion that’s hard to remain unaffected by. The theme of suicide is no doubt a tricky one to bring to screen, but Amavia does it respectfully and reverently, without holding back when she needs to, but never losing sight of hope and grace. With such deep and personal ideas at the story’s core, this is as impressive as a debut gets, featuring a strong cinematic voice that pierces deep with focus and urgency.