Two people haunted by tragic events in their past form an emotional connection in Chris Hansen’s indie drama.
That its central character elicits both our sympathy and irritation is but one of the many intriguing elements of Chris Hansen’s low-budget regional drama Blur Circle. She’s Jill (Cora Vander Broek), who’s obsessed with the disappearance of her young son two years earlier. A natural and normal reaction, to be sure, and definitely worthy of the audience’s empathy. But Jill takes it to extremes. She accosts male strangers in the park merely because she finds it suspicious that they’re there alone in the middle of a work day, and then takes their pictures and presents them to the clearly exasperated detective working on the case. She lashes out at everyone around her and she wears the same clothes every day, an unflattering jogging suit, because it was what she wearing when her son went missing and she wants him to be able to recognize her when he reappears.
In a similar vein, Jill confronts a man in a laundromat who appears to be photographing people without their permission. They get into a heated argument about it, and she later smashes a window at his house to further register her disapproval.
The stranger turns out to be Burton (Matthew Brumlow), a school crossing guard who’s also dealing with a tragedy in his past. A flashback shows him coldly informing his wife that he intends to leave her. Minutes later, she attempts to hang herself in their garage. She winds up not dead, but rather in a comatose condition from which she may never recover. In an effort to assuage his guilt, Burton maintains two-way video monitoring of her in her hospital bed, frequently talking to her in the hope that she may be able to hear him.
The burgeoning friendship between the emotionally damaged Jill and Burton is the central focus of the film scripted by Brian Elliott. Another character figuring prominently in the proceedings is Burton’s friend Earl (Ryan Artzberger), an eccentric junkyard owner who conducts solemn funeral services for the items that are beyond salvaging.
The storyline refreshingly avoids going in predictable directions. There’s no tidy resolution to the tragic situations it depicts, and the relationship between Jill and Burton never turns romantic as it undoubtedly would have in a Hollywood film. Still, not everything works here. There are times when the movie feels overly manipulative. And such moments as Earl attempting to absolve Jill of her lingering guilt by having her make a religious-style “confession” in her shower, complete with a ritual washing away of her sins, smack of artificiality.
Despite its flaws, the film proves very moving at times. The characterizations which start out excessively quirky eventually become subtler and more nuanced. The performances are first-rate: Vander Broek forcefully conveys Jill’s complex mixture of anguish and aggression; Brumlow underplays to excellent effect as the enigmatic Burton; and Artzberger brings sly humor to his character who could have been merely annoying. The Texas-shot film displays a strong sense of place, and the technical aspects are strongly above average.
Boasting a tender humanism that seems more vitally necessary than ever in these divided times, Blur Circle is well worth checking out.
Production company: Theoretical Entertainment
Distributor: Indie Rights
Cast: Cora Vander Broek, Matthew Brumlow, Ryan Artzberger
Director: Chris Hansen
Screenwriter: Brian Elliott
Producers: Chris Hansen, Brian Elliott
Director of photography: Aaron Youngblood
Production designer: Toni Portacci
Editor: Jay Gammill