A movie about a woman who hasn’t left her apartment in a year, “Sparrows Dance” is tailor made for video on demand, which has to be the greatest gift to shut-ins since the home delivery of sliced bread.
Despite winning an award at the Austin Film Festival and playing theatrically in New York, indie writer/director Noah Buschel’s harrowing but hopeful fourth feature — now streaming on iTunes — will surely find its most appreciative audience on VOD. Indeed, the world of “Woman in Apartment” (as she’s known in the credits) truly hits the homebody where she lives.
Beautifully embodied by Marin Ireland (a bit player on Showtime’s “Homeland”), our uncontrollably twitchy young heroine spends her days smoking cigarettes and pedaling her exercise bike, her nights eating delivery food and watching black-and-white melodramas. The larger world wouldn’t factor much at all were it not for her clogged toilet, which requires her to accept a visit from Wes (Paul Sparks), a plumber who gets the conversation flowing as well as the water.
Gradually evolving into a tender love story, “Sparrows Dance” is easy to pick apart, but its palpable sympathy for a woman who hides under the covers whenever there’s a rap at the door makes it harder to dismiss. Red circles around her sad eyes, Ireland appears equally wounded and yearning, while Buschel’s visual style makes the movie more than a filmed play, the camera’s unfashionably square frame accentuating the claustrophobia and his use of flashing neon mirroring the agoraphobic heroine’s intermittent ability to shine.
Plenty unusual himself, Wes is a part-time jazz saxophonist who wants his panic-stricken lover to come outside and catch his gig at the Vanguard. It’s a tall order, but, for Woman in Apartment, New York beckons. Maybe Wes will eventually succeed in getting her to come to an art-house movie theater?
Also new to VOD
Another odd, elusive indie exploration of those “on the spectrum,” as they say, “Touchy Feely” is vastly more worthwhile than its early, largely negative reviews have suggested. Seattle-based writer/director Lynn Shelton, who made “Humpday” in 2009, here focuses her attention on Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), a massage therapist who somehow comes to look at human skin as toxic — whereupon she more or less freaks out.
Co-starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney, “Touchy Feely” incorporates a host of compelling eccentrics in its warmly encompassing view of neurotics who eventually join to form a surrogate family.
For those who prefer to get “out” when they’re watching at home, there’s the “Blair Witch”-y “Devil’s Pass” by Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2”), who has clearly had better days. Here, he tries his hand in the indie realm with a kids-and-their-cameras thriller that bloggers have rightly condemned as even more feeble than his “Cutthroat Island.” Maybe Harlin would do well to stay home and stream the classics.
Rob Nelson is a National Society of Film Critics member whose reviews appear regularly in the trade magazine Variety.