Newly Single, 2018.
Directed by Adam Christian Clark
Starring Adam Christian Clark, Jennifer Kim, Molly C.Quinn and Raychel Diane Weiner
Astor William Stevenson is on the verge of a big step in his career, but when his girlfriend leaves him, insecurities surface and he transforms into a wrecking ball on a stream of darkly comedic dates and misguided romantic pursuits.
The introduction to Newly Single pragmatically outlines the film’s intentions immediately. Opening with the films closing credits, Director Adam Christian Clark alludes to the films strong connection to its main protagonist where he is also starting his new story with an ending.
The orientation and focus of the way Newly Single is shot paints the parameters of the intimate and close insight that we are permitted as the viewer. We immediately see the depth to Astor’s insecurities as one of his partners would. Every scene is formed to honestly provide a look into who the main protagonist is and the views that constitute his ethics. We aren’t so much invited, as we are pushed into witnessing Astor’s downward spiral following his recent breakup from his long-term girlfriend.
Working as an indie filmmaker, the film follows Astor wallowing in the disillusion formed from a fundamental misunderstanding of what he signifies in the world and what he presumes the world owes him. He clings violently to all forms of the past unable to let go of his last relationship, his arguments, his views and his appetite to find someone who fulfils his needs. By all intents and purpose Alster is someone we have all met in a realistic and regrettable way. Although the theme of misunderstanding a changing world and the need to push against it, is a human one, it remains more and more difficult to connect and empathise with a character so disconnected from reality. Astor ignores his position and power and questions repetitively why he believes nothing is good enough for him while also using it to manipulate women to get what he can from them. He argues that he is hedging his bets for something worthwhile to come around the corner while making no genuine argument for deserving something better without changing.
The framing of the narrative is notably wonderful in the way the film’s cinematography and visuals compliment the character. The thought that went into planning each shot to parallel the protagonist’s sense of awkwardness, confusion and frustration is felt clearly. Shots linger to emphasise his anxiety and his egotism. The camera, for the most part, favours looking up to Astor while looking down on other characters. However, the tone of dark comedy, which Clark argues Newly Single sings, is rejected in the way the film is edited and framed.
The close connection and insight the viewer is forced into with the main character, as we start the story with him, share the narrative with only him and follow only him, makes it impossible to see the dark, funny and ironic sentiment to Astor’s tone and circumstance. The reality of the film ultimately overpowers the ability to see the film as a dark comedy, and this is where the film’s real issues lie. The circumstance and situational events Astor falls into in his experiences as a newly single translate as either ironic or discomforting, but never both. The level of intimacy we are immediately provided is a difficult weight to bare and only continues to build as the film progresses. We learn more of Astor’s openly awkward and insecure reasons for breaking up with his ex-girlfriend and the intensity and control he passively pushes for in his relationships.
The film’s main motif examines this primary theme intimately, exploring the frustration and disorientation that comes from stubbornly wanting things to remain the same and not understanding fundamentally why they have to change. This is shown in Astor’s first date as a newly single. Arguing that he doesn’t believe in feminism because he sees it as an expressive nuisance that has only emerged in the 60’s as a blip in the grand narrative of evolution, Astor misses the obvious irony in his explanation of feminism. He reveals his insecurity by misunderstanding that evolution is always a continuation. It builds on its previous building block and constantly changes. By its very definition, it evolves. Something that Astor is fearful of doing.
Despite Astor’s vanity, insecurity and controversy laid bare for this effect it is difficult to look past the way in which Astor’s feelings are paraded around. Rather than feeling sympathy, frustration ultimately ends up circumventing any empathy for Astor and his appetite for melancholy and egotism. Clark’s film fulfils the full descriptive description of a meta indie film. It’s introspective, detailed, questionable and bold. Newly Single has a lot of good things going for it way it is written, directed and performed. The acting is truly stellar from all support cast members and Adam’s performance is admirable as the lead. His film explores, to an uncomfortable way, the honest view of how some people experience loneliness, narcissism, vulnerability and new relationships. But it misses the signifying mark on translating the dark comedy of a character abusing the clichés of meeting someone new and falling for who you want them to be more than who they are. It becomes easier to hate and misunderstand Astor than to see the humour is his failings at misunderstanding people and the wider world.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★