The method-y, elfin brooder-hipster star of the moment, Paul Dano has four movies out this year, but here is his one-man show, a post-Cassavetes gift to the lowly god of grit and "authenticity." Shot with personal-space-violating intimacy by sensitive semi-mumble vet So Yong Kim, the movie never strays more than a few inches from the odiferous aura around Dano's Joby, a dim goth alt-rocker in a nowhere band we first meet driving himself into an upstate snowbank. Joby struggles mostly alone with the disappointment he has provided his ex-wife and his deadbeat-dad legacy in regards to the titular grade-schooler (Shaylena Mandigo). A lean character study of a classic, if hardly articulate, modern lost-boy archetype, Kim's film sometimes runs the risk of taking Joby almost as seriously as he takes himself, staring this wastrel down as if his every pout and blink were a window on the human condition. But at the same time, the character's pitiful narcissism is certainly sliced for sandwiches, and the film does find a patient balance between its obvious sincerity and the scenario's lack of depth and surprise. Dano, with his remarkably guileless meta-teen puss, is thoroughly convincing, which is more than can be said for the film's shameless climactic steal from Five Easy Pieces.
Dano as reluctant daddy.
Opens Fri., Sept. 14 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Not rated. 87 minutes.