Addicts, they fuck up your life. Jake Hoffman’s road movie Asthma is marketed as capturing “the highs and lows of being young, lost, and in love,” and that’s true if you squint and use your imagination, but it also buries the lede: Protagonist Gus (Benedict Samuel) is a junkie.
The kind of young New Yorker who waxes nostalgic about how much cooler the city was before he was born, Gus steals a Rolls-Royce and picks up Ruby (Krysten Ritter), a tattoo artist he’s been creeping on for a while, giving her a rocky lift to her friend’s quasi-hippie commune. The lack of chemistry between Ritter and Samuel works to their advantage, because it soon becomes clear that the worst possible thing that could happen would be for Ruby to hook up with the jealous and singularly unpleasant Gus.
He’s likely to strike a chord with people who have experienced addicts up close, particularly that certain self-righteous breed who blame the world for their problems and refuse to take responsibility for the damage they cause, even after getting clean.
That also makes Asthma a fascinating character study, and as portraits of modern urban alienation go, Hoffman’s film even manages to make the similarly big-eyed and greasy-haired protagonist of Joel Potrykus’s Buzzard seem sympathetic.
Directed by Jake Hoffman
Opens October 23, IFC Center
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 20, 2015