The first feature by Chicago director Dean Peterson, “Incredibly Small: A 300-Square-Foot Love Story,” is indeed an incredibly small, incredibly understated and indelibly bittersweet romantic comedy. Shot in Minneapolis on a fourteen-day schedule, “Small” follows Anne (Susan Burke) as a proficient law student who moves into a bashed, battered, filthy, too-small apartment with her life-to-be-determined-later sculptor-escalator attendant boyfriend Amir (Stephen Gurewitz). Peterson’s apparent influences range from Eric Rohmer to Woody Allen, and he does a more-than decent job of fitting himself for their boots. The couple’s readily apparent mismatch gnaws. Anne’s dissatisfaction with his indolence comes out when she’s just a little liquefied and her best friend is flying high. “I assumed you were having really great sex was why you were together”: Burke’s self-aware muffle of a laugh in response to that presumption is a fine pencil sketch of romantic resignation. Filmmaker Alex Karpovsky, playing a neighbor with designs on Anne, further cements his essential role as the great, passive-aggressive male shit of contemporary micro-budget American filmmaking (“Tiny Furniture,” “Lovers of Hate,” “Harmony and Me”). Man, does he know how to play a shit. Karpovsky’s portrayal of a sense of entitlement and of unceasing disdain is unerring. Peterson’s greatest stroke is his ending: it’s unaccountably tender and affecting. Been there? Don’t do that. With a modestly shambling cameo by Bob Byington (“The Color Wheel”), a wondrously creaky wooden floor and several squeaky doors. 83m. HDCAM video. (Ray Pride)
“Incredibly Small” opens Friday at Siskel. Peterson will appear at Friday-Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday shows. A trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.