Where We Started
Will Shelton longs to be a working actor, but struggles to pay the bills and spends outside of his means. So he spends the majority of his time working as a mechanic. Nora Van Der Graf has a sick child and an unhappy marriage. Together they spend a sleepless night contemplating what might be, and thinking about what might have been.
It’s an interesting premise for a thoughtful story that, structurally, makes some interesting choices, but it suffers from being over written and under-plotted. It’s a less filmic, less passionate take on David Lean and Noël Coward’s "Brief Encounter" from the male point-of-view.
"Where We Started" starts with a couple of strangers who happen to stop at the same motel for the night. When Will can’t sleep, Nora offers him a cigarette; the two then move to an all night diner, then continue on to drinks back in her room.
Through all of this there’s a whole lot of talking.
Talking is the tool this pair uses to seduce each other. Talking is the way they flirt with the idea of infidelity. Talking is how they justify, and feel guilty, and explain to each other why they acted the way they did earlier in the evening while they were talking with each other.
The conversation can be seductively intriguing, but for the most part it is self-conscious. That is to say, the characters are not self-conscious; the dialogue is conscious of itself as a movie. Because of this, the pair spends a good deal of time talking about movies and theorizing about major themes in the movies they like.
The filmmaking is quick, inexpensive and predictable. Just as the actors speak in full sentences, delivering a line and then waiting for their cue, the camera moves back and forth between shot and reverse shot. Cover footage and reaction shots are missing, and likely they were never captured.
For instance, Will is in a diner discussing the jobs he gets stuck with, and how he makes ends meet. "At least it beats being a waiter," he says just as the server enters with his food.
But the awkwardness and tension of this moment fall flat, because the scene has only been recorded in well-composed, but plodding, medium shots. We see no reaction from the faceless server (Mallory Olivier), and her presence is merely as a torso moving in an out of medium shots.
That being said, Will and Nora (Matthew Brumlow and Cora Vander Broek) are quite sexy, and the two of them have an amazing ability to carry us through some wooden and unrealistic dialogue. Toward the middle of the movie they have a moment where they ride a motorcycle together. This is a sensual breath of fresh air. For a moment the couple stops talking at each other, and some communication starts to happen.