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In Nothing Personal, Two Isolationists Thaw for Each other

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Nothing Personal
Directed by Urszula Antoniak
Olive Films
Opens November 19, Cinema Village

In her tale of a brusque, prickly young Dutch woman who inexplicably cuts herself off from the world, except for a heavily circumscribed relationship with a man whose isolation is less voluntary, writer-director Urszula Antoniak hits a lot of expected notes. But she does so with a gracefulness that makes the predictable a tad less foregone. Carrying only an overstuffed backpack of belongings, headed anywhere and nowhere (vaguely evoking Sandrine Bonnaire’s title character in Agnès Varda’s Vagabond), the never-named woman (Lotte Verbeek) encounters the expected perils of a female hitchhiking alone before she stumbles onto the isolated home of an Irish widower (Stephen Rea). He offers her food and lodging if she’ll help him work his farm. She accepts under the condition that they never speak, never attempt any sort of relationship. What follows, of course, is a slow chipping away of her armor as the two circle each other, tentatively connect, withdraw, and then repeat the process. The whole thing is a pleasure to watch, though, because Verbeek and Rea telegraph volumes of subtext beneath the dialogue they’re given, speaking to the human need for emotional and physical contact—and the fear of the responsibilities and costs that come with it.

 
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