In Scalene, the third feature from Indiana native Zack Parker, suburban intrigue is broken into a puzzle whose pieces refuse a perfect fit. Parker plays with structure, style, and perspective to tell the story of how Janice (Justified star Margo Martindale) came to show up with a loaded gun at the door of Paige (Hanna Hall), the young woman she hired to care for her brain-damaged son, Jakob (Adam Scarimbolo). We begin there and move back in time to the settlement of Paige's rape charge against Jakob, then back a little further to Janice glowing red as a rotisserie chicken when her new boyfriend dumps her over the phone. Although it becomes clear that these scenes encompass Janice's self-sympathetic perspective, Parker adds touches like that flash of impressionistic lighting and Janice's constant shushing of her son—who never speaks—to suggest another side to the story. After a brief interlude behind Jakob's wandering eyes, Paige takes over, and new angles are revealed. Although Scalene slows to a drip in places, strong performances and a Hitchcock-trained eye build unnerving tension into its depiction of the intimate stress of caring for an invalid and the ways people might or might not crack under it.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.