All Films • Drama, 06-May-2022
A depressed writer in L.A. tries to find her way through the grieving process while her estranged brother returns home after a three year absence. “Pasadena,” the directorial debut feature from Gaston Stabiszewski, is a patiently observed character study about two siblings stuck in extreme patterns of turmoil, carried by understated, emotionally raw performances. Brimming with vulnerability and gently funny at times, the film leans into a minimalist narrative while allowing for occasional flourishes of style and surrealism. Still grieving from a death in the family, Hannah spends her days at home lying in bed or leaving voicemails to her brother, Andrew, who never picks up his phone. Unbeknownst to Hannah, Andrew has just landed at LAX and he gradually makes his way toward her, while trying to build up the courage to reacquaint with his old life. A visual trick of the film is that when we’re following Hannah’s story, it’s shown in modern high definition video, while following Andrew’s story, the footage is significantly more lo-fi. This isolates them in their own heads, and illustrates the distance they have built between themselves and the outside world. Andrew’s hesitant journey across town takes all day, while Hannah resists the help of her partner and friend to jumpstart her recovery. A melancholic portrait of stasis, the film could have easily fallen into tedium if not for a delicate touch — Stabiszewski molds listless and dour behavior into something intriguing and existential, and the filmmaking is self-assured, willing to take surprising detours away from foundational naturalism. When Hannah watches an exercise video, or calls the internet company to get her service restored, the exchanges veer into absurdity. And halfway through the film, a musical dance sequence arises from thin air, and disappears just as quickly. It’s these kinds of unexpected turns that breathe life into “Pasadena” and make for a promising debut feature. -KA. Writer, Director: Gaston Stabiszewski. Cast: Kristen Laffey, Gaston Stabiszewski, Teresa Lee, Julian Goza. Director of Photography: Blake Nolan Brown. Producers: Ania Pilch, Kristen Laffey, Nathan Churchill. Music: Drive-by Crush, AJ Churchill.
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