Out of the past

Memory turns slippery at the DFT this weekend.

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Director Jonathan Nossiter's debut film Sunday is so artful in its withholding of basic information that any straightforward telling of its story would be a disservice to the potential viewer. Nossiter and his co-scenarist James Lasdun have so carefully fragmented their narrative and laced it with indirection that what could have been a rather soapy story of two lost souls reaching out for each other becomes an engrossing, mysterious and somewhat Pinteresque construct, wherein the truth is elusive and identity mutable.

Suffice it to say that one Sunday in Queens, a past-her-prime actress (Lisa Harrow), that is to say a woman over 40, runs into a man she recognizes as the famous film director Matthew Delacorte (David Suchet). At first he seems indecisive about acknowledging this recognition, not an inappropriate reaction, but the woman is so aggressively certain that any denial on his part would be tactless. She so desperately wants him to be Delacorte, an emissary from a better time she knew before she became stranded in Queens, that even if he isn't &emdash; and we suspect he isn't, though that will remain uncertain until later in the film &emdash; merely by being passive he becomes the man.

But it seems likely that this alleged Matthew has just emerged from a homeless shelter and is, in fact, an ex-IBM employee named Oliver who's recently been downsized into anonymity. He certainly seems &emdash; with his mercurial expression, alternately scared rabbit and secretive owl &emdash; to be hiding something.

But then Madeleine, the actress, may not be quite what she seems either; her estranged husband Ben (Larry Pine), whom Matthew-Oliver meets after she's taken him home for some wine-fueled, (seemingly) confessional conversation followed by furtive sex, claims she once sliced his torso with some garden shears. He doesn't seem quite on the level either.

Suchet, whose most famous role has been as Hercule Poirot for PBS, gives a wonderfully subtle performance in the difficult role of a man slowly drowning in angry bewilderment. And the Nossiter-Lasdun screenplay is impeccable, right up to its flatly nonexistent ending. But that's a quibble. When a film is this original and brimming with privileged moments, one can forgive a lack of resolution.

Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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