Small, unprepossessing and yet surprisingly compelling, Adam Reid's Hello Lonesome is a tiny independent film (budget: $50,000) that aims high and nearly gets there.
Reid's theme is stated in his title: human connection and the difficulties inherent in making and maintaining that bond. He examines it from several angles in a trio of storylines which, refreshingly, never dovetail through coincidence or happenstance.
The first involves Bill (Harry Chase), a voice-over artist who works solo out of the studio in his home in Connecticut. He lives alone, spending his time wandering around his house - and his property - in his underwear, which is his get-up when he's doing remote recordings and, occasionally, shooting guns at targets. He leaves increasingly needy messages on his estranged daughter's phone; otherwise, his only real human contact is with Omar (Kamel Boutrous), the delivery man who regularly rings his doorbell.
The second thread ties Eleanor (Lynn Cohen), an older widow, to her divorced neighbor Gary (James Urbaniak), a copy editor who works at home. When Eleanor is stripped of her driver's license because of her failing sight, she takes Gary up on his offer to drive her wherever she needs. Before long, she's cooking him dinner and sharing a bottle of wine - on a regular basis.
The last plot deals with Gordon (Nate Smith), an office worker who discovers he is something of an online sports-betting whiz. He meets a young woman named Debby (Sabrina Lloyd) through an online dating service and falls comfortably into a relationship with her, all but moving into her fabulous Manhattan apartment with her and her two Bernese mountain dogs. When things get serious - in more ways than one - Gordon finds himself unexpectedly going from 0-60 in record time, commitment-wise.
Reid takes his time establishing these three separate stories - and just when you're about to lose patience, particularly with the latter two, he takes unexpected turns. Not like M. Night Shymalan twists - rather, Reid simply creates a familiar situation, then goes in directions that run counter to the expectations created by the set-up.
The Eleanor-Gary story, for example, evolves into what, in less capable hands, would be a clumsy and uncomfortable winter-summer romance. Eleanor slowly pulls the acquiescently bemused Gary into her life, whether it's her remorse at selling her classic car or her need for some simple body contact, in the form of asexual cuddling.
The Gordon-Debby connection, by contrast, seems to get deeper and deeper. Even as he gets more involved with Debby's increasingly serious problems, Gordon continues his online sports betting - and finds that his empathy and giving to Debby seem to pay karmic dividends.
Shot simply, acted without fuss, Hello Lonesome is alternately funny, wistful, tragic and suspenseful. Reid does a lot with a little - and has crafted a small beauty of a film with his first try.
Click here: Find more reviews, interviews and commentary on my website.
Follow Marshall Fine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollywoodnfine