Uptown

This is a micro-budget indie feature about a relationship in New York. Ben and Isabel are both looking for something and the film opens with their first date. Their flirtation continues and develops into friendship and the possibility of more lurks on the periphery. Will it develop? Is it destined to end in disaster? Does anybody really care?

Chris Riquinha and Meissa Hampton in Uptown

Ben is a film maker who enjoys his own company and he certainly seems to like the sound of his own voice. He has perhaps unsurprisingly been single for quite some time until he meets Isabel on MySpace. He rather sleazily convinces her to meet him with the idea that she could be in his latest film. Isabel is an attention starved lonely girl who would rather go on a date with a stranger than tell her husband that she thinks the marriage is in trouble.

Neither of the main characters is sympathetic and the bulk of the film centers on them wandering around the city having dull conversations which are filled with awkward pauses and silences. They are supposed to be falling in love but there is no visible sign of a spark whatsoever and the lack of chemistry makes the events a hard sell. For the viewer it is like being a kidnapped and unwilling passenger for a series of bad dates that ordinarily would not lead to anything.

The idea of shooting a film about a relationship around uptown New York with a very small crew and just two principal actors is ambitious. The dialogue comes across as fairly natural and it seems likely much of it was improvised. The problem is that it is terribly dull. I understand the film is going for a realistic feel but these characters were just lifeless.

Uptown behind the scenes

The cast really just consisted of Chris Riquinha as Ben and Meissa Hampton as Isabel. They were believable enough. Ben was supposed to be witty and smooth and Isabel was a typical cutesy nervy girl. Their attempts at natural were occasionally a little forced feeling, the pauses were too long and there were times when the whole thing felt almost revoltingly self indulgent but for amateur actors they were both competent.

The direction by Brian Ackley is a mixed bag. He caught some nice sequences and there were some interesting shots of the city streets. There were also some appalling shots and occasions when the camera seemed to float around a bit too much. The long shot of the dark hallway was the worst for me. The production values in general were obviously low and for the most part it really didn't detract from the film but there were a couple of scenes where the sound was terrible. During the conversation between Ben and his friend, which offered a brief and welcome respite from the couple, it was very tough to hear what his friend was saying.

As an independent film on a micro-budget this definitely showed some promise for all concerned. The subject matter and characters completely failed to grab me personally although I'm sure there are people out there who might relate to them. To be brutally honest I suspect most people will find this film every bit as dull as I did.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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