If the first hour or so of "Blue Jay" were anywhere near as compelling as its last 15 minutes, the film could have proved quite a special little experience.
But this nostalgic two-hander, directed and shot by Alex Lehmann from a script by Mark Duplass, takes too long for too little to happen, until we're finally rewarded for our patience.
Amanda (Sarah Paulson) and Jim (Duplass) are high school sweethearts who accidentally meet up again 20 years later while visiting their rustic hometown. (The movie was filmed in Crestline and Twin Peaks in the San Bernardino Mountains)
The married Amanda, back to see her pregnant sister, and the shambling, still-single Jim, a drywall installer who's returned to fix up his late mother's house, spend a warm and spirited, if often awkward, day rehashing bits of their teenage romance and avoiding the major issue: what broke them up to begin with.
Paulson and Duplass are strong, engaging performers, but for much of the film's brief running time they seem to be enjoying themselves far more than we are.
The largely improvisational approach as well as the limited settings and story arc also undercut the picture's deeper dramatic potential — despite a powerful, beautifully performed finale.
As for the black-and-white photography, it adds or evokes little, at best underscoring the stark eventuality of the Amanda-Jim reunion.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Playing: Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood; also on VOD