It’s not very often that I get to be this excited over a indie feature, but the fine work of WHERE WE STARTED has urged me forward to give a shout-out. Working within the tight parameters of low-budget, Chris Hansen has beautifully directed his script of 30-something travelers, both married, meeting inadvertently and hooking up at a motel where they happened to rest for the night. Watching this slow slide into sexual intimacy – breaking all the rules and oaths of their marriages for this future love – is both terrifying and fascinating, a car-wreck of mores and choices in modern society. Hansen offers us a close-up view of the laws of attraction, soul-mate intrigue, coupled with cold-water realism for what such decisions ultimately represent. Since over half of marriages end in divorce, the subject of his movie couldn’t be more pertinent.
As this couple finds itself headed toward an inevitable affair because of their close proximity, obvious physical attraction and sexual hunger not fully met by their respective households (chalk this up to the regularity of most marriages?), we can’t help but put ourselves in their shoes. How close to the line would we go if we found ourselves in a similar, tantalizing situation? Would we enjoy intellectually jesting with a member of the opposite sex? Would we flirt? Would we ‘accidentally’ drop our guard, set aside the pledge of our marriage for just one night of orgasmic pleasure? What would we do?
Once, when I asked a college friend what happened to his marriage he replied, “I blinked,” when mentioning his one-night stand that ended things. Here’s a movie that extends that ‘blink’ long enough to take stead of the consequences. We get to have a ‘ghost of Christmas future’ glimpse of just how their relationship might proceed if each party eradicated themselves from current spouses (and children). As our couple hashes out the nuts-and-bolts of courtroom divorce, changing jobs/cities from those already established, child custody confusion, etc. (not usually a factor in deciding a momentary fling with a stranger…), the movie becomes something of a cautionary tale, a kind of wake up call. My Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices book suggested that people should consider making “adult movies” (not talking about pornos): “An adult movie will necessarily be hard and challenging, just as all real adult relationships are,” says the Preface. Hansen gives no easy answers. This is the value of ‘indie’ thinking and filmmaking, at its best.
From its opening shots, right up to the end credits, the outstanding performances of Matthew Brumlow and Cora Vander Broek, modeled expertly by director Chris Hansen, keep the viewer absorbed as much as any recent Hollywood or top foreign film fare. But unlike Hollywood movies that put special effects/pyrotechnics first, only utilizing relationship-moments to give their bloated stories a human face, to keep us invested in characters caught in various digital dilemmas, WHERE WE STARTED captures and holds the viewer without need of fictional warfare, secret agents, or sailors caught bobbing on high seas in perfect storms. For anyone who has spent time clicking away at their Netflix queue, gathering up four-star movies, they’ll find that WHERE WE STARTED will fall easily into that top list, quite comparable with the best French, German, Swedish, and yes, American movies. See it!
-- Filmmaker/author Rick Schmidt, Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices, Extreme DV (Penguin Books), Morgan’s Cake, Sticky Wicket, etc.