Sparrows Dance, 2012.
Written and Directed by Noah Buschel.
Starring Marin Ireland, Paul Sparks, Niesha Butler, Bennie Slay and Zoran Radanovich.
When her toilet begins to overflow, an agoraphobic actress reluctantly allows a plumber into her New York apartment.
You can just about imagine the pitching meetings that went on for this low-budget American indie: “Yeah, it’s about this actress. And she hasn’t been outside of her flat for over a year; she just orders takeaways and watches TV. And then her toilet starts leaking and she calls up a plumber and they make a connection…”
Loathers of the ‘kooky’ bitter-sweet would almost certainly avoid a less than inspired outline like that, which, as it turns out would be an intense shame.
This is because Sparrows Dance reveals itself to be an affecting and effective black comedy drama laying bare a wealth of observation concerned with the human condition and the isolating consequences of social anxiety. It is full of sharply written subtleties, and benefits from two strong performances from Ireland and Sparks, who manage to convey immediate attraction struggling with the awkwardness of social conventions.
Following Marin Ireland’s unnamed agoraphobic actress – simply credited as Woman in Apartment – as she sleep-walks through her routine of ordering take-away food (leaving the money outside the door, naturally), working out on her exercise bike and watching the world go by on her TV and outside her window. Occasionally it is a troubling world, as it is when she witnesses a violent robbery just outside her apartment. This event almost motivates her to go outside to check that the victim is alright, but after not quite making it, she is soon back on the couch. However, when her toilet begins to overflow, she is compelled to call the repair service and allow a stranger into her home.
Into this slow motion existence Wes arrives (Paul Sparks), an eccentric self-effacing plumber with a sideline in jazz saxophone playing. The two begin an ill at ease meeting of minds, with Wes revealing his own anxieties, while his ‘customer’ concocts an unlikely story of employment and the necessity for her to always be at home.
This burgeoning relationship is touchingly created; the two trade insights and dry witticisms with each other while the glow of neon from the diner outside the window is a constant reminder of the life outside the four walls.
At times, the film has the feel of a stage production, particularly when the two dance to jazz on the apartment floor with the visible set design captured within frame. This scene visually alludes to the Woman’s abruptly halted career in unmistakable fashion and shows us (and her) just what is possible when you open yourself up to new experiences.
A poignant film built on two likeable characters coming to terms with life, it manages to belie expectations and builds up a memorable drama from the smallest of small-scale approaches. Filling its short run-time with a range of philosophical and psychological truths, it comes as a welcome example of just how to endeavour with an indie romantic comedy – whatever form that happens to take…
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.