Writer-director Nick Richey packs a lot into the 92 minutes of his first feature film. “Low Low” takes place over the course of two days in the lives of four lower-middle-class high school girls, nearing the end of their last summer together. As the friends push aside fears about their respective futures — by drinking too much, fighting their enemies and sleeping around — Richey tries to get across what these youngsters have been through for the last 18 years, growing up largely unsupervised in broken homes.
The film covers a bit too much ground. A more focused plot might have served these characters better. When “Low Low” is more incident-driven — as in a darkly funny sequence where one of the young women awkwardly asks one of her recent sexual partners for money to buy some Plan B contraception — Richey and his excellent young cast conjure an impressively vivid reality, telling this story through naturalistic performance and dialogue.
Even though “Low Low” only hits those kind of highs periodically, this is still a strong debut for Richey, who shows a real compassion and understanding for these women. A lot of fledgling filmmakers make autobiographical movies or lean on genre, but “Low Low” follows a different path, empathizing with the worries and woes of some people whose lives are rarely reflected on screen.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Playing: Starts Aug. 16, Downtown Independent, Los Angeles; available Aug. 20 on VOD.
‘One Last Night’
Reportedly based on an actual dating nightmare that writer-director Anthony Sabet experienced, the romantic comedy “One Last Night” stars Rachele Schank as Zoe, an L.A. underachiever who reluctantly agrees to go to a movie with Alex (Luke Brandon Field), an aspiring writer who turns her off immediately with his pretensions and fussiness. Through a series of mishaps, the mismatched couple ends up locked in the theater overnight and begin to bond as they kill time.
This is a good premise for an inexpensive indie romance: two people, mostly in a single location, getting to know each other while having a little adventure. But while the tone of “One Last Night” is appropriately breezy — and while newcomer Schank makes a wonderful first impression — in a “strangers spend a long evening talking” story, the characters should be more witty and wise, and not as vaguely defined as this pair.
An unnecessary (and honestly kind of creepy) mid-film plot twist kills the minimal momentum the film develops in its first half, making this picture feel like a rough assembly of not-quite-interesting-enough scenes — likely to frustrate any young couple looking for a movie to cozy up with.
Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes
Playing: Available Aug. 16 on VOD
The mystery-thriller “Awake” is the kind of twisty crime picture that sometimes turns out to be a minor gem — but not this time. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a hospitalized amnesiac who is a suspect in a string of murders. He goes on the run with the help of a sympathetic nurse (Francesca Eastwood) and tries to solve the crimes himself — like something out of a slim, slippery pulp novel.
But the cast and the co-directors Alex Cher and Fedor Lyass take the wrong approach to this material, downplaying plot-driven thrills while aiming for something more character-driven and unduly serious, where the heroes wrestle with their troubled pasts more than they try to avoid the cops. The acting’s either overly muted or awkwardly broad (with terrible Southern accents throughout, for no real reason). The slack pacing drains the movie of its urgency. This is a neo-noir that never generates any spark.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Available Aug. 16 on VOD