Quarter-Life Crisis in the Stunning New Year

A slow-building stunner of a character study, The New Year stars Trieste Kelly Dunn as Sunny, a budding writer who returned to her working-class hometown of Pensacola to take care of her sick academic father, and got stuck. Her routine, and her safe relationship with a sweet but unremarkable local dude, are thrown into relief when Isaac (Ryan Hunter), Sunny's high-school-rival-turned-New-York-hipster stand-up comedian, comes home for the holidays. As Sunny's quarter-life crisis sneaks up on her and then explodes, director Brett Haley steers far away from sad-young-person movie clichés. The supporting players are expertly cast and all turn in solid performances, but this is Dunn's show. In a sense, she's playing a dual role: Sunny as seen by others (quiet, dutiful, nearly selfless), and the repressed Sunny (ambitious, resentful, and desperate to do something for herself for a change). As the days drop down to the end of the year, pressure mounts for Sunny to figure out which version of herself she's going to be, a crisis of self-confrontation embodied in a single long shot of Dunn's face in a mirror, which will break your heart.

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