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Review: Alessandro Nivola makes a strong impression in the meditative drama ‘Weightless’

Review: Alessandro Nivola makes a strong impression in the meditative drama ‘Weightless’
Eli Haley, left, and Alessandro Nivola in the movie "Weightless." (Paladin)

Director Jaron Albertin’s feature debut “Weightless,” written by Albertin and Enda Walsh is a lot like its taciturn protagonist, Joel (Alessandro Nivola), in that it’s more about what the scenes don’t tell us than what they do. The storytelling is often inscrutable, deliberately meditative, and opaque, sometimes frustratingly so.

Joel is a quiet, odd man who works at a trash dump and has a sweet budding relationship with a local woman, Janeece (Julianne Nicholson). He receives a call that his ex-wife has gone missing, leaving behind only a mysterious appearance on a surveillance video and their son Will (Eli Haley), whom Joel knows of but has never met.

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Albertin tends to linger on quietly poetic shots — a crumpling plastic mattress wrapper, a bird’s-eye-view of a hawk wing, black water pulsing violently. But these don’t help to inform the story of Joel’s fumbling attempts to care for and connect with his son.

Nivola is deep in character as the tight-lipped oddball Joel. It’s indicated that he suffers from mental illness issues of his own, and soon the father-son journey is a fight to stay together while doctors attempt to place the diabetic Will in foster care.

There’s a sense of beauty and contemplation in Albertin’s work, and though it seems like danger hangs in the air, there’s an odd lack of tension or suspense, and the film’s pace requires incredible patience. Nevertheless, Nivola’s work is somewhat of a revelation, while Haley proves to be a worthwhile discovery.

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‘Weightless’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: Starts Nov. 9, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood

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