In Montauk (2012) – By Cary Conley

Julie is an artist on the cusp of making the big time. It seems she has it all: a loving and supportive husband; a budding artistic career; and now, the beginnings of a real family, as she discovers she is pregnant. Julie has traveled upstate to the family’s seaside condo to work on her first big gallery showing. During the cold, quiet days she wanders the seashore and cliffs, looking for the perfect photo for her showing. But during the nights, the cold and quiet seem to weigh more heavily on Julie, creating a loneliness that begins to gnaw at her. Did she really come to the condo to work on her show or did she come to sort out some questions that have been nagging at the back of her mind?

A chance encounter with a newly- single man, Christian, in the condo next door only adds to Julie’s confusion. At first she finds him brusque and rude, but at night she enjoys listening to him compose music on his keyboard which she can hear through the wall. The pair begin a tentative and initially stormy professional relationship during the day that sees Christian helping lug Julie’s equipment across the sand. But as Julie’s photos move from scenes of nature to striking scenes of nature juxtaposed with human body parts and forms (a hand, an elbow, a silhouette wrapped in black), and finally full shots of Christian himself, the relationship moves from merely professional to something a bit more complicated.

As one of Julie’s relationships strengthens, the other begins to sour, made all the more difficult by the fact that this isn’t just a love triangle…there is the new baby to think about, too. Now Julie and the two men have to tackle some very pressing issues that aren’t as easy as one might think.

In Montauk is a contemplative and sensitive romance/drama. The issues that must be tackled by the characters are dealt with in a mature and authentically human way as opposed to the stereotypical handling of these themes by big studio Hollywood. The characters and their emotions seem absolutely accurate and real as they try to sort through the ocean of powerful emotions each of them feel. The themes presented in the movie are more serious than one might see in the latest blockbuster romance, including loneliness, adultery, and even touching on the issue of abortion and whose decision ending a life would be when partners have an equal share in a relationship.

Writer/director Kim Cummings shows a flair for creating powerful and realistic relationships in her first full-length film. Her choice to film a wintery northeastern beachhead full of brown sand and grey skies is a perfect complement for the washed-out emotions the characters are feeling: alone; depressed; forlorn. Cummings’ eye for photography is also good (no surprise as her mother is a professional artist) and she inserts some truly interesting photographs that Julie takes while on the beach with Christian. It’s a nice blend of storytelling and artistry on film.

Essentially a two-character act (with the addition of a third character during the last 20 minutes), all three co-stars are excellent. Nina Kaczorowski plays Julie, a woman who has reached multiple crossroads in her life. Should she choose her career over what she has come to feel is an increasingly distant marriage? Should she keep the baby even if the marriage doesn’t work out? Should she consider her husband’s feelings about abortion? These are very difficult questions, all tackled with a depth of emotion and sensitivity rarely seen anywhere but indie film. Lukas Hassel stars as Christian, the surly yet sensitive musician who himself has come to the seashore to nurse his wounds from a failed relationship. He is at once sympathetic (obviously hurt by his failed relationship) but morally corrupt (sleeping with another man’s wife, especially knowing she is pregnant, which adds another layer to the relationship). And George Katt does a splendid job as Julies’s husband, Josh. Josh goes through a range of emotions beginning with uncertainty (we get the feeling he knows this trip isn’t just about art) which changes to anger when Julie refuses to discuss the baby with him and finally sadness as Josh and Christian trade knowing glances at Julie’s gallery showing.

This is a film in which no one seems to win, the final scene perhaps leaving the ending open to interpretation. Cummings seems to be saying, "Hey, life is complicated and choices are seldom clear-cut, so why can’t a film be the same way?" While slightly depressing, the film is also ultimately satisfying for its maturity in dealing with some very complicated relationships and Cummings’ decision to leave some emotions unresolved.

For more information about the film, go to Siren’s Tale Productions at www.sirenstalefilms.com.