"...Around" is directed and written by David Spaltro and inspired by his experiences attending the film program School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC from 2001-2005. The film follows Doyle Simms, who at the age of 18 decides to finally live his dream of crossing the Hudson river and escaping a life of potential drudgery in his native New Jersey. Over a period of 4 years Doyle struggles to keep himself in film school while living on the breadline.
Thats the synopsis but at the same time its not really what "...Around" is about. Essentially a character study, "...Around" concentrates more on the introspective thoughts of it's main character. The world is full of people who like the idea of being seen as creative, rather than being driven by any creative vision. People like that tend to turn to talking about themselves or regurgitate clichés, photographers taking pictures of prostitutes and homeless, fashion designers making a sweater into trousers etc., all the while believing they are creating something avant-garde. Independent film just means films produced outside the large studios, however when you mention indie film in an American context, no doubt certain things spring to mind; the hip independent soundtrack, the mostly white middle class characters with "issues", self absorbed pretentious dialogue etc. I don't really care for that style of film much and will hold my hands up for assuming "...Around" would be self serving hipster drivel. And in many ways in the hands of another aspiring director it could of been. David Spaltro however is clearly well aware of the pitfalls and defly sidesteps most of them. Sure "...Around" has the feel of an American indie, but there's real substance here and true talent.
The acting is fairly strong as it needs to be in a character driven piece, with Berenice Mosca as Dolyes mother and Ron Brice as a homeless sage being highlights for me, but there's no really weak turns. Robert W. Evans carries the film well as the slightly sociopathic / disconnected Doyle. I'd like to see more of Veronica Heffron who plays Mona, who exudes a lot of on-screen charm and charisma.
"...Around" is essentially as complex or as simple as the person viewing it wants it to be, which in itself shows Spaltro to be a writer of considerable talent. There's the simple idea that you should "stop and smell the roses", life is after all made out of a series of moments not just a "goal" you have to achieve while ignoring "the journey". The tagline "embrace the fall" is very apt; the idea that happiness and not saftey is the better thing to strive for, that as long as life is interesting it's worth living, even if this means immediate discomfort. We live in times where in the western world more and more people feel, and in many ways are, disconnected, atomized and driven by routine. "..Around" reminds us that people are what make our lives what they are. They come and go, but they always add a bit more to our own story.
Some of the other reviews of "..Around" take the view that it's about being able to achieve anything you want. And at the end of the day what you take away from a film and feel is correct - it's an individual experience. For me however, thats not quite what I got and would hope it's not the sum total of Spaltro's intent. For one thing it's not really true, you can try and achieve what you want certainly, but meritocracy is an over simplistic daydream. Many hardworking, talented people give it their all and fail (in terms of what they where trying to achieve, not that life is about winning). For me its about accepting you just don't know what will happen, but lack of certainty is no reason not to do things. Its about stepping into the dark and understanding when the sun comes up again you will be a stronger person, even if you tripped a few times wandering blindly. Hell its about whatever you want it to be, but its certainly good.
Socrates said something along the lines of "The unexamined life is not worth living" and in my opinion there's a lot of truth in that. "...Around" finds Spaltro doing just that and when the credits roll hopefully the audience do to. Slow burning at first ...Around builds into one of the strongest debut films I've seen in some time. A charming, uplifting introspective character study, that should restore your faith that great independent film making is about more than a hip soundtrack and a cool marketing campaign. Talking of hip soundtracks, the use of Kirby Dominant's Nauzeated while Doyle attends the hipster party made me smile. Hopefully that arrow in the heal to the theory of meritocracy, C.R.E.A.M. won't stop "...Around" from reaching a wider audience.