Review by Mark Schwab
April 28th, 2017
If you got out a piece of paper and chose to write down all of the "flaws" in your intimate relationships, it probably wouldn't be too difficult for most of us. Simmering, unsaid resentment is a painful - but effective - way to run a relationship aground against the rocks. The happier couples among us choose instead to focus on and celebrate the closeness and warmth of sharing a life together. All of those little flaws then become "quirks" which we can highlight and poke fun of at dinner parties after too many drinks. In a weird way, being able to laugh about your partner's flaws openly and gently (I said gently!) robs them of all power to cause resentment and can bring even more intimacy.
Writer/Director David Ash's feature film TWIN CITIES (premiering on June 11th at Film Invasion Los Angeles) is a most unusual indie feature that takes some huge risks in the structure of its screenplay, the motivations of its characters and the atmosphere of its story. In particular there is one very intense twist that must be experienced by the viewer. I'll explain more but I also must be very dodgy in order to remain spoiler-free.
John (Clarence Wethern) and Emily (Bethany Ford Binkley) are a once-happily married couple now going in opposite directions emotionally and career-wise. Emily is a writer who wrote a bestselling first novel but now her career is threatened by her second; it's too long, it's incoherent, she isn't quite sure how to fix it and her publisher wants the advance back if she can't deliver a proper draft in one month. Meanwhile, John is totally burned out writing "two year's worth of computer code in 6 months" and wants a sabbatical - which is impossible if they have to give back Emily's book advance. Then, to throw more rage into this marital machine, John is given a terminal cancer diagnosis which causes him to take stock of everything in his life - from his marriage to the meaning of existence. Intercut with all of this are flashbacks into the early days of John and Emily meeting, being happy, growing closer and being genuinely in love. Ash stages all of this in a strange tone - something like John Cameron Mitchell crossed with Judd Apatow...some truly wrenching emotional pathos crossed with scatalogical profanity. It's odd but strangely involving.
It is here where I have to get obtuse because TWIN CITIES, after establishing all this groundwork, starts to take some very surprising and surreal turns. I was frankly a bit gobsmacked by the choices made here. However I was also in admiration of the sheer audacity of the storytelling risks it took in going from point A to point Y then to point J. It isn't a mess although it does require the audience to meet it all halfway...in fact more than halfway...which will be troublesome for some viewers.
The two main performances by Wethern and Binkley are superb (especially in hindsight), critically anchoring the movie when it could have been lost at sea. Yes, I do think it ultimately bites off a bit more than it can chew but there is no denying the filmmaking skill and originality on display here. In the end, I think TWIN CITIES is that increasingly rare indie film - one that shoots high, maybe trips over itself a little and demands you all go out for coffee and drinks afterwards to argue about...was it brilliant or did it fail completely? TWIN CITIES might be flawed but dammit...it's also a must-see (and more than once).
Find out much more about TWIN CITIES at their WEBSITE.