www.baltimoresun.com/mobile/ct-mov-0907-premier-attraction-20120907,0,1413054.column

baltimoresun.com

'Green': Jealousy invades a garden, once again ★★★ 1/2

Michael Phillips

10:15 AM EDT, September 7, 2012

Advertisement

A witchy little gem, Sophia Takal's "Green" dives headlong into the state, the swamp and the stew of jealousy, that reliably malignant power source in so many relationships.

Generally it takes an artist on the order of a Shakespeare to get beyond a good-try level of exploration and dramatic inquiry on the subject. As Iago said in "Othello," "O beware my lord of jealousy: it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on."

And look what jealousy did to director Henri-Georges Clouzot: His final film project, "L'Enfer," a feverish attempt (never completed) to capture the state of extreme sexual paranoia, eluded his grasp altogether.

So here's a much more modest but nonetheless extremely interesting success story. Takal, who wrote and directed, lays out a simple tale of a New York City couple, Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Sebastian (Lawrence Michael Levine), who relocate for a slice of bucolic rural heaven. (The film was shot in rural Maryland.) Sebastian's writing a blog, or something, about sustainable farming and has sublet a farmhouse and some land for a few months.

Genevieve hasn't much to do there. A chatty, attractive neighbor, Robin, played by Takal, insinuates herself into their company. Genevieve needs the companionship; a healthy female friendship seems to be developing, in a sweet haze of county fairs and long walks in the woods. Robin mentions admiring her boyfriend's hair. She's a bit awed by these cosmopolitan strangers; "most of my friends're pigs, is all," she says.

And then "Green" complicates that friendship with Sebastian in ways that don't take the obvious path.

Takal's style combines long, languorous Telephoto takes, often with the characters strolling in the distance, with a dash of stylized emphasis. This place is no Forest of Arden; it's more like a teeming, birds-and-crickets-infested reminder that some things cannot be controlled. Genevieve begins imagining her boyfriend (not much of a boyfriend, really; he's a blowhard and an insecure narcissist) with this insistently social stranger. The dialogue feels improvised in the best way, loose and revealing. "I was thinking/I was wondering/I was planning on going this weekend," Robin says at one point, and the syntax is quite authentically perfect.

Is "Green" at heart the story of a woman who can't be trusted? It's better, more truthful than that: These three are who they are, and they're not easy to peg. Sheil's Genevieve may be a recessive character, but as the stand-in for the filmmaker, she's the reason the film works. Off screen, filmmaker Takal is engaged to Levine, and their roommate is Sheil. They have maximized their rapport and turned it into something very real on screen.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Green' - 3 1/2 stars

No MPAA rating (language, nudity).

Running time: 1:12

Plays: Friday-Thursday at Facets Cinematheque.