Complex relationship issues are at the heart of William Sullivan’s “That’s Not Us” – a film that introduces us to three couples on a getaway weekend to Fire Island. It’s late September and tourists are at a bare minimum. Deciding they could use a weekend away from New York City, they arrive on a ferry and follow handwritten instructions to get to the guest house of one of their relatives.
With the seasons transitioning from summer to fall, our characters are all in a state of flux as well. The six vacationing friends have two sisters forming their connective tissue – we’ve got a straight couple who are still in the honeymoon phase, a lesbian couple going through a sexless rut, and a gay couple who are struggling because one of them has been accepted to grad school in Chicago.
As we peel back the layers of their partnerships, the film presents some of the issues of being in a long-term relationship in ways that are not often explored. Unfortunately, the answer on how to solve problems when you’ve been together for many years can simply be “I don’t know.” Backed with an electronically-tinged score from former Passion Pit member Xander Singh, the film delves into how guilt and fear of the unknown can tear people down no matter how much they love each other. “That’s Not Us” braces us for the times when there isn’t an easy answer, but you desperately want everything to work out.
Shot in just 8 days, filming began with only a 20-page outline that resulted in a fully improvised movie. That could have been a recipe for disaster, but not here. While the film drags a bit in the middle, overall it has a raw power largely due to the great actors and the fast-paced editing style that, at times, recalls the French New Wave. Sullivan’s own partner, Derek Dodge, was the co-writer and director of photography, making this a genuine labor of love.
“That’s Not Us” screened yesterday in the Narrative Competition and does not yet have U.S. theatrical distribution. The winning title in the Narrative category will show again on Sunday night at 7:45 p.m. at the Alamo South Lamar.