Apart From That: Like Cassavetes in Skagit County

Like Cassavetes in the sticks, this Mount Vernon indie was self-financed and shot by Jennifer Shainin and Randy Walker using mostly local, amateur talent. The few trained actors don't stand out much, and that's a compliment. Seen at SIFF '06, Apart From That makes a jumbled democracy of its rustic players; refreshingly, there's not a mumbling hipster among them. The generous ensemble sensibility recalls Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know, with a similar macramé plot. At a beautician's school, women rehearse an intervention for an alcoholic friend. An adopted kid keeps nagging his Vietnamese father about having fired the father of his best friend. An Indian tries to avoid confronting a pal's imminent death. An old woman—cast from a Daughters of Norway meeting—tries to seduce the firefighters she calls via false alarms. (The links among them gradually become apparent, though they're not contrived.) Rural aesthetes Shainin and Walker value individual stitch work more than the loosely woven whole. Made close to, but definitely apart from, the Seattle indie scene, their film compares favorably to recent local flicks like Police Beat and Zoo. Its tangled artiness may not cohere, but it richly imagines life behind the scenery we glimpse, and ignore, passing by on the freeway.

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