Narrative Reviews

<i>The Odd Way Home</i>
The Odd Way Home

The Odd Way Home

D: Rajeev Nirmalakhandan; with Rumer Willis, Chris Marquette (World Premiere)

In our own ways, aren't we all wanderers? Maya (Willis) is running away from an abusive relationship; cartography savant Duncan – seemingly the only person alive who knows exactly where he's going, if only literally – is newly fending for himself in a world that doesn't understand him or his obsessive nature. But thanks to a series of unlikely occurrences and a whole host of unavailable family members (be they emotional dead ends or literally deceased), the duo journeys through the great American Southwest together, paving their own path toward friendship, self-discovery, and a new definition of family. The wide open expanses are perfect analogs for two blank slates starting over, certainly make a picturesque backdrop, and Marquette positively shines as Duncan. There's an awful lot of ground to cover here, both literally and emotionally, with a few culs-de-sac left unfortunately unexplored, but ultimately, director Nirmalakhandan confirms the old saying: Not all who wander are lost.
– Monica Riese

Friday, Oct. 25, 7:30pm, Stateside at the Paramount; Monday, Oct. 28, 9:30pm, IMAX Theatre


<i>A Birder's Guide to Everything</i>
A Birder's Guide to Everything

A Birder's Guide to Everything

D: Rob Meyer; with Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Kingsley, James Le Gros, Katie Chang (Texas Premiere)

Between his mother's death, his father's pending nuptials, Latin club, and that delicate web of friends and crushes that every high schooler weaves, David Portnoy (Smit-McPhee) has a lot on his plate. But when you pile on the pressure of having possibly rediscovered a duck species previously thought extinct, this accurate portrayal of awkward high school life takes flight into a touching coming-of-age narrative with a hint of fantasy. David takes off on an epic journey with a few friends – comic relief Timmy (Alex Wolff) and new kid on the block Ellen (Chang) chief among them – but the discovery he makes at the end of the road is as much about himself as any ol' bird. There's no guidebook for the opposite sex, no universal binoculars we can use to peer into our parents' minds, but A Birder's Guide to Everything should be standard issue for anyone looking to relearn the importance of a flock. – Monica Riese

Saturday, Oct. 26, 6pm, IMAX Theatre; Sunday, Oct. 27, 3:15pm, Alamo Village


<i>Siren</i>
Siren

Siren

D: Jesse Peyronel; with Vinessa Shaw, Robert Kazinsky (World Premiere)

The Greek myth of the sirens is given a modern face-lift (not that they needed them, one supposes) in director Peyronel's assured debut feature. It's actually more of a riff on the myth; there's nary a Harryhausen-esque Sinbad in sight. This singular Siren, Leigh (Shaw) exists in what appears to be an enchantingly verdant Northeastern backwater, far from Colossa. Everyone from boys to men acts hormonally brutish when they approach her – that is, if they can somehow bypass her fenced and electrified boundaries – until a seemingly impervious, hunky stranger, Guy (Kazinsky) wanders onto the property and ends up playing handyman and more. Much closer to the tone of dark fantasy pictures like Twilight in its depiction of the constraints placed upon a mythological outsider by life in the "real" world, Siren is notable for what it's not, i.e., an out-and-out horror film. Its lush cinematography, ingratiating leads, and out-of-left-field plot turns end up being a welcome respite from the banshee/harpy scream-a-thon the title might suggest. – Marc Savlov

Saturday, Oct. 26, 8pm, Stateside at the Paramount; Tuesday, Oct. 29, 9:30pm, IMAX Theatre


<i>Dear Sidewalk</i>
Dear Sidewalk

Dear Sidewalk

D: Jake Oelman; with Joe Mazzello, Mich­elle Forbes, Josh Fadem (World Premiere)

Put Dear Sidewalk's Gardner and Paige on the list of great examples of opposites attracting. Gardner's quarter-life crisis is upon him, but he's found comfort in his routine as a mailman living in a boat parked in a yard. When he meets Paige, a newly divorced artist with a waning live-life-to-the-fullest outlook, things go predictably awry. Dear Sidewalk captures the awkward flirtation between someone being told to lower her expectations in midlife and another who seems oblivious to the prospect of anything better. The two meet-cute in their life ruts and proceed to stagger romantically through the Austin landscape (including the unmistakable Cathedral of Junk). Director Oelman smartly keeps the scope small and focuses on the minimal cast even though sometimes the script tells more than it shows. As Gardner, Mazzello is quirky without being cloying; Forbes' Paige is charming but sometimes overbearingly free-spirited, which makes her character feel all the more real. Together they imbue the movie with enough nuance to keep viewers invested through the credits. – James Renovitch

Friday, Oct. 25, 8:15pm, Alamo Village; Wednesday, Oct. 30, 9:30pm, Rollins Theatre

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Film Festival, Austin Film Festival 2013, The Odd Way Home, Rajeev Nirmalakhandan, Rumer Willis, Chris Marquette, A Birder’s Guide to Everything, coming of age, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Katie Chang, Siren, Jesse Peyronel

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