Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle


Grade : A- Year : 2009 Director : Brian Ackley Running Time : 1hr 13min Genre :
Movie review score

“Uptown,” by first-time writer/director Brian Ackley, is the third film I’ve seen from indie production company One Way or Another in three days, and the underlying idea behind their film remains the same- observing human behavior and idiosyncrasies. Of the three, I think I identified the most with this on because of personal experiences in my life, but in a way it’s also the least interesting…

…at least at the start, however. Like “Cookies & Cream” & “carter.,” “Uptown” is set in New York. It starts out on a first date with Isabel (Meissa Hampton) and Ben (Chris Riquinha) that blossoms into a friendship. That’s not to say they really seem to hit it off right away. The dinner seems awkward between them, but they end up hanging out throughout the night. And they end up talking, about themselves, about what they do. But then an odd predicament occurs- Isabel brings up that on his MySpace page, Ben says he’s married. Ben admits that he’s not, but here’s the thing- Isabel really is. But he’s assured that things aren’t too happy between her and her husband.

Despite that awkwardness, though, they become friends, and start communicating. Isabel begins to get a bit flirty in her emails, however, which has Ben confiding in his roommate about the dilemma he finds himself in. The truth is, he’s started to fall for her. They continue to hang out and spend time together, even after Isabel’s husband shows displeasure with the way they’re interacting. Eventually, however, Ben finds himself with an emotional dilemma- his feelings are more than friendship for her. “Uptown” deals with the emotional repercussions of that happening for both of them.

I mentioned earlier that I identified with this film on a personal level, and indeed I’ve had a similar quandary occur in my own life. It left me spinning, as much because I wondered what it said about me as it was a referendum on the emotional issues it brought up for me at the time. It caused significant damage to the friendship; over time, things have gotten better, but the lack of honest communication on both of our parts, and the lack of real discussion about what our concerns were, still leaves the wound open, for me at least. Over the past year, I’ve made my peace with things, but still wonder whether there aren’t some issues that need to be discussed.

Ackley has done a wonderful job at capturing the emotional journey I at least went through in his story, even if it has the ending my situation never did, but I always hoped for. Maybe in time for me, but such is the strength and intelligence of this film that nothing feels forced, and more importantly, everything feels real. Hampton and Riquinha are wonderful in conveying their character’s respective dilemmas, as well as their shared desire to ease the pain for one another, and do right by everyone involved. That doesn’t always happen in real-life, but we do what we can.

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