The grail is “Annie Hall”: holy, holy. Who will make the twenty-first-century rendition of that kaleidoscopic romantic whatcha-ma-jigger? Even when its essential poignancy seems impossible to replicate, such as its Chaplinesque moments of disappointment taking flight across Woody Allen’s face, it’s good to see young filmmakers try for that kind of heightened comic urban stenography. “Breaking Upwards”: there’s a neatly prototypical title for a lo-fi no-budget, New York-set, troubled relationship dramedy about twentysomething strivers based on the lives of a filmmaking couple who star in the film, right? As directed by Daryl Wein and written by Wein, Zoe Lister-Jones and Peter Duchan, there’s a low-key warmth and earnestness different from a more-meta indie like, say, the cutie-fest “Four Eyed Monsters,” which it resembles: while keeping to the ground in terms of depicting the negotiation to the end of a four-year relationship, the filmmakers try to tell a fairly straightforward if downbeat romantic story. The characters aren’t aimless or slackers—she’s very much into herself as an off-off-off-Broadway actress, he’s proud of his output as a writer—but they are both deeply, deeply ordinary and in real life, would be deeply, deeply aggravating to anyone else outside of their small, small world, which, despite their central Greenwich Village locale and a nice, large cast, is comprised largely of two. Made for a reported $15,000, “Breaking Upwards” may be as good-looking a movie as you can eke at that budget; Alex Bergman’s location-driven photography is a big plus. With a strong supporting cast, largely drawn from theater, including Julie White (mom in “Transformers”), Andrea Martin, Olivia Thirlby, Peter Friedman, La Chanze, Ebon Moss Bachrach, Pablo Schreiber, Heather Burns. 89m. (Ray Pride)
“Breaking Upwards” opens Friday at Facets.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.