Filmed in 2002, Jennifer Elster’s first feature, about artistic exorcism of childhood demons, transcends its own considerable self-indulgence with sweet, believably tormented performances. Elster plays gruff Lilli Black—a painter coping with the terminal illness of her neglectful, former-junkie dad—with a kind of laconic armor that never feels workshopped. And as Lilli’s tenuous love interest, a debilitatingly germ-phobic rich-kid poet named Morrison, Queer as Folk‘s Gale Harold turns the simple act of entering the subway into a suitably pathetic victory. Subplots involving the existential crisis of Morrison’s impotent architect father, the stalker fixation of Lilli’s Christian roomie Flora, and the volatility of Flora’s not-so-pious boyfriend (who nearly rapes Lilli in a blood-red scene in the back of a dogfighting bar) get somewhat heavy-handed. But in the central romantic push-pull, Elster and Harold achieve a rare, edgily hopeful chemistry amid emotional ruins.