Arlo & Julie
2015, NR, 76 min. Directed by Steve Mims. Starring Alex Dobrenko, Ashley Spillers, Sam Eidson, Chris Doubek, Hugo Vargas-Zesati, Mallory Culbert.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 8, 2015
In his return to narrative film following the critically acclaimed 2011 documentary Incendiary: The Willingham Case, local filmmaker Steve Mims has concocted a mischievous story about a happy, if rudderless, young couple, Arlo (Dobrenko) and Julie (Spillers), whose lives are upended when a puzzle piece arrives in the mail with no note or return address. The next day, the number of pieces doubles. Same thing happens the next day, and so on and so on, as Arlo and Julie become increasingly obsessed with solving both the jigsaw puzzle and the mystery behind it, which tests the strength of their relationship.
Mims cast an Austin-bred skeleton crew of only a half-dozen speaking parts, and they’re all great, compatibly quirky actors. (Spillers especially stands out as a nimble and frankly adorable comedian with dramatic chops, too.) Austin looks terrific; this is a crisp, vibrantly colored picture of our current metropolis. But what’s most endearing about this slight mystery/comedy is its gently out-of-time quality, evinced in the Roaring Twenties soundtrack, out-of-favor camera effects (iris closures, clock wipes), and an old-fashioned, but not unwelcome, generosity of spirit. All told, it’s a likably misfit little movie, even if you can imagine it better suited as a lengthy short film or as a superior installment on one of those midcentury television playhouse series.
See "Puzzling Over Love," May 8, for an interview with the filmmakers.