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‘Change in the Air’: Film Review

Rachel Brosnahan plays a mysterious young woman who affects the lives of a small town’s residents in Dianne Dreyer’s drama.

Other than providing employment for some currently underutilized acting veterans, Dianne Dreyer’s quasi-spiritual, quasi-poetic drama has little reason for being. Depicting the effects of a mysterious, ethereal stranger on the residents of a small town, Change in the Air proves frustrating and dull for most of its running time, displaying unwarranted confidence in its ability to cast a spell. The slew of familiar names will attract some interest, especially recent Emmy Award winner Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), but it won’t be enough to save the film from lapsing into obscurity.

Brosnahan plays the central role of Wren, a young woman who suddenly shows up in a tight-knit community in which everyone seems to know each other’s business. So it proves frustrating for them that Wren seems to have no vocation and that she receives huge amounts of mail every day, which she proceeds to carry in a large bag to an unknown destination. The best theory that one of the residents can come up with is that she’s a “pen pal for prisoners.”

The town’s denizens include Walter (M. Emmet Walsh), who in the opening scene walks directly into the path of a car in an apparent suicide attempt; his wife Margaret (Olympia Dukakis), desperately attempting to care for her severely depressed, silent husband; Jo Ann (Mary Beth Hurt), who harbors a particular interest in Wren because of a tragic event in her past; her bird-loving husband Arnie (Peter Gerety), who finds Wren enchanting, and not just for her name; Moody (Aidan Quinn), a local cop who attempts to investigate Wren’s background; Donna (Macy Gracy), a music teacher from whom Wren rents an apartment; and Josh (Satya Bhabha), a postman who would like to be much more to the new arrival than just her mailman.

The screenplay by Audra Gorman substitutes character eccentricities, such as Jo Ann constructing her own wooden coffin, for drama, delivering not so much a narrative as an atmosphere of subdued melancholy. Wren mainly walks around quietly and looking vaguely beatific, which for no defined reason has a profound impact on the residents. Moody’s inability to uncover Wren’s background is mirrored by his frustrating encounters with a pharmacy worker and pizza delivery company that prove neither amusing nor the stuff of compelling drama. And Arnie becomes elated at spotting a rare bird in his backyard, a plot element that might prove interesting to ornithologists but few others.

Throughout its relatively brief but seemingly endless running time, the movie seems to have absolutely no idea where it’s going or what it’s trying to say. By the time it reaches its mystical but nonsensical conclusion, viewers will long since have thrown up their hands.

The performers, all of whom have done superb work in far better films, do what they can with the material. But while Hurt and Quinn in particular have some decent moments, they’re mostly unable to breathe life into their uninteresting characters.

Production companies: Red Square Pictures, M.Y.R.A. Entertainment
Distributor: Screen Media Films
Cast: Mary Beth Hurt, Aidan Quinn, Rachel Brosnahan, Peter Gerety, M. Emmet Walsh, Macy Gray, Olympia Dukakis, Satya Bhabha
Director: Dianne Dreyer
Screenwriter: Audra Gorman
Producer: Benjamin Cox
Executive producers: Dianne Dreyer, Audra Gorman, Margarethe Baillou, Allan Neuwirth
Director of photography: Jack Donnelly
Production designer: Jesika Farkas
Editor: Ian Blume
Composers: Terry Adams, Bill Frisell
Costume designer: Amit Gajwani
Casting: Sig De Miguel, Stephen Vincent

Rated PG, 94 minutes

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