Do not be turned off by the following descriptors: Kickstarter project. Eighty-minute phone conversation. Sibling dynamics.
And don’t be too concerned that Buoy’s opening shots of an industrialized stretch of the Willamette River and the comfy interior of an affluent hilltop home will serve as a ham-fisted leitmotif. This film is about a guy calling his sister out of the blue.
T.C. (Tina Holmes), the film’s only protagonist we actually see, appears to be residing in a modern-day version of The Feminine Mystique in the West Hills. There are hints of discontent (solitary yogurt-eating) and musings of what might have been (a prominent copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion on the shelf). When her brother Danny (voiced by Matthew Del Negro) calls, he wakes her from a midday nap that could hint at either health issues or general malaise.
But for anyone who’s navigated complicated family dynamics, or for anyone who’s experienced the basic discomfort of reconnecting with a former confidant who’s inexplicably fallen off the map, the ensuing (nearly feature-length) phone call is authentic.
T.C. wonders why her brother is calling, but in lieu of exposition-heavy dialogue, there’s an exchange of self-protecting niceties. T.C. is pregnant again, with her third child. Danny is no longer in that band from a few years ago. T.C. waits for the seemingly inevitable bad news. Danny repeats, “Yeah, I gotta get out there” for a visit, in the half-assed way family does to avoid any real brushoff.
Despite the politeness, the conversation reveals a relationship that was once familiar, even fond. And as we watch T.C. attempt to piece together the reason for the call, she easily follows (and initiates) chatty tangents about daily minutiae, and she asks about Danny’s routines—sometimes prying, sometimes merely engaging.
There is a reason (or
at least an inspiration) for Danny’s call. Meanwhile, T.C. does what
many of us do while fielding confessions from the safe distance of a
cordless phone: She folds laundry. She attempts the “silent pee.” And as
T.C. moves about her home, writer-director Steve Doughton offers up
tantalizing hints: Given the film’s simple and therefore risky premise,
there are moments that hint that all this evidence surrounding T.C.—supplies that speak to child-rearing and infant care—might
just be a collection of props in a sad domestic delusion. Or this could
just be a conversation, too long postponed.
Critic’s Grade: A-
SEE IT: Buoy plays at the Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Friday-Monday, Nov. 30-Dec. 3.