Review: There's little to love about the torpid 'Refuge'

Krysten Ritter and Brian Geraghty, performers who have delivered striking work elsewhere, are hard to read in "Refuge," a torpid drama about a tentative new romance. Or perhaps they're too easy to read; whatever emotional depths filmmaker Jessica Goldberg hopes to suggest, there's nothing stirring beneath the movie's static surface. The central characters' coupledom might bring them a safe haven, but audiences will be left out in the cold.

Adapting her stage play, Goldberg uses wintry Southampton, N.Y., locations to convey a down-and-out working-class vibe. It's the most expressive aspect of the feature; the desolation of the landscape suits the story of two people who are struggling to deal with loss. Amy and Sam start things off with a casual barroom pickup. Out of a job and headed nowhere in particular, he transitions from one-night stand to rent-paying boarder and then to committed boyfriend, with a few uninvolving crises along the way.

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The relationship alarms Amy's teenage siblings (Logan Huffman and Madeleine Martin), both damaged in their own unconvincing ways and disturbingly dependent on Amy, the surrogate parent who sacrificed a dream or two to fill the void left by their mother and father.

Explained rather than inhabited, the characters are half-formed, and their low-grade depression infects the underpowered storytelling. Literary references land in the dialogue with a mechanical thud. More effective are Goldberg's nods to reality — $9-an-hour construction jobs, anti-immigrant protesters — but ultimately, her story of redemptive love and healing has all the dramatic impact of a wish.



MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes.

Playing: At Sundance Sunset Cinema, West Hollywood.


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