Exit Elena Screen 6 articles

Exit Elena


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  • The cast's rapport is intimate, and with good reason. Silver and his mother seem to be playing slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, and as such the striking emotional honesty of their characters' interactions can be attributed to their real-life mother-son dynamic.

  • Exit Elena adopts many working methods typical of a Cassavetes production—shot almost entirely in Silver's family home, the film stars his girlfriend (Kia Davis, who is superb), his mother (Cindy Silver), and himself—but its affinity with a film like Love Streams, its closest likeness, runs deeper than their shared independent sensibility. Silver locates the ordinary madness bubbling just beneath the surface of his own life, and flickers of lunacy abound...

  • Using mostly amateur performers and improvised dialogue, Mr. Silver has created a profoundly awkward riff on dysfunction that’s uneventful but not unrewarding. The vérité style (emphasized by the almost square 4:3 aspect ratio) and lengthy close-ups — not to mention Mr. Silver’s alarming turn as Cindy and Jim’s neurotic prodigal son — may try the patience, but it’s the small moments that win you over.

  • Took me a few minutes to realize I was seeing something new to me in terms of the people (live-in nurses and their elderly charges) and setting (a secular Jewish household in suburban Massachusetts). These aren’t the usual northeastern suburban dramas of relationship friction and attrition, but less predictably charged dynamics I’d simply never considered... In its self-consciously modest, grungy way, it expanded my understanding of who I’m sharing the planet with.

  • While undeniably funny, Silver exploits a vérité style aesthetic, which gives the film an uncanny sense of realism. (Rather than cutting to close-ups of Elena, Silver often zooms in on her face, emphasizing an observational feel and further grounding the scenes in her perspective.) Thus, as each chapter (Limits, A New Family, Sudden Decision) of the film unfolds, the story’s banal absurdity begins to take on a surreal—even threatening—tone.

  • Invisibly hovering over every scene is the differential power relation between her and everyone else in the family, young or old. For fear of being fired, she finds herself acceding to escalating daily demands coming from every direction. There is a precise, comic absurdism at work here that is worthy of Buñuel.

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