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This seems more like a calling card than an actual movie, a demonstration piece by first-time director Tony Barbieri showing how he can take very slight material and deepen it with interesting stylistic flourishes.

Basically, this is the story of two old friends who are trying to drift apart but don’t quite know how to pull it off. Nick (Kane Picoy) is an ex-baseball player and now a garbage collector. He’s a young man who seems to have embraced failure as a code of honor, spending his off days lying around the house doing nothing. Charlie (Jason Cairns, who co-wrote the script with Barbieri) is his old pal, freshly out of prison after doing time for assisting in the suicide of his grandfather. Charlie has nowhere to go, so Nick asks him to stay with him and his father (Paul Herman, a familiar character actor who played the hard-nosed pimp in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite).

The problem is that Charlie wants to change his life, go back to school and get a degree, while Nick just wants to brood over missed opportunities and suffered wrongs, both real and imagined. When Charlie becomes romantically involved with a community service co-worker named Sarah (Autumn Macintosh), it puts a crucial strain on his relationship with Nick. All this is moderately interesting, though the film’s abrupt and tragic conclusion feels like a tacked-on nonending.

Barbieri is a very conscientious composer of scenes and his favorite device is to shoot from an adjoining room, isolating the “action” in an open doorway, leaving us to ponder an implacable expanse of wall. It’s a muted form of expressionism, though after the fourth time or so it just seems like an affectation. More effective is the sequence with Charlie and Sarah lying in bed talking, drifting out of focus in the background while the foreground becomes dominated by a huge ashtray with a cigarette streaming smoke. Very moody. Now all he needs is a script worthy of this attention.

Opens Friday exclusively at the Star Gratiot (Gratiot at 15 Mile Rd.), as part of the Shooting Gallery film series.

Richard C. Walls writes about film and music for Metro Times. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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