John is not your typical nanny: He’s a sad burly bear of a man who’s devoid of both expression and enthusiasm. While caring for two roving toddlers, he (John Merriman) compulsively stalks Courtney (Courtney Davis), an ex-paramour who morosely consorts with Macon (Macon Blair), John’s clownish drinking buddy. But Courtney comes around to his laconic charms—at least until the plague of perpetual male adolescence creeps back into their anonymous lakeside town. Although Steve Collins’s lo-fi fable is often as rough ‘n’ tumble as the scampering kids in John’s charge, it follows a deceptively intelligent design, with seemingly offhand shots recurring, rhyming, and recalibrating. But for all of its gradual build and minimalist focus, the film misses out on something essential, something more crucial than clarity, context, and connecting tissue—all of which the film aggressively eschews. It lacks a center, a sense that within its strenuously ambiguous story is a thrumming motor. John and Courtney, the film’s ostensible heroes, aren’t just inarticulate—they don’t even have personalities. Solemnly, they stare into the middle distance, evoking vague existential disaffection (and easy cinematic shorthand) rather than actual feeling. We’re meant to piece together the story from elliptical shards—unmoored apologies, an unexplained death, a childless crib—but without anything drawing us in, there’s little incentive to bother.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 2, 2012