'Uncertain Terms' looks good but has unwelcome melodrama

'Uncertain Terms,' set in a home for pregnant girls, has nice candid images, but not much to say

Indie director Nathan Silver has earned critical and festival attention for past features such as "Exit Elena" and "Soft in the Head," but his latest release, "Uncertain Terms," makes a curious case for his ascending star. At a mere 71 minutes, this naturalistic snapshot set at a bucolic residence for pregnant girls feels like it needed more gestation before cameras rolled.

Escaping his failing marriage, 30-year-old Robbie (David Dahlbom) takes refuge with his aunt Carla (Cindy Silver, the director's mom) at the upstate New York home she runs and shares with five pregnant teenagers. It's a potentially intriguing environment, and we get to know each of the girls a bit, but not enough to invest in their transitional lives.

Meanwhile, Robbie, who's helping out around the property as a handyman, begins a friendship with housemate Nina (India Menuez), an ethereal redhead with a skittish baby-daddy (Casey Drogin). That doesn't sit well with another boarder, the manipulative Jean (Tallie Medel), who's developed a thing for Robbie. It all leads to unwelcome melodrama and an unconvincing romantic segue for the floundering Robbie.

Silver, who co-wrote the free-form script with Chloe Domont (a producer here) and editor-cinematographer Cody Stokes, keeps the pacing languid and the performances loose, to mixed effect.

His fly-on-the-wall approach — there are some nice candid images — might have been OK if the film had something deeper to say about its wayward characters, their iffy situations and maybe life itself. Carla is perhaps the most interesting soul here, but she rarely steps out of den-mother mode.

As it stands, "Terms" proves too uncertain.


"Uncertain Terms"

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 11 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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