The Unspeakable Act Screen 12 articles

The Unspeakable Act


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  • If Medel can’t make up for the usual Achilles’-heel factors that hobble microbudget movies like this one, she does give you the sense of how someone like Jackie could both hold on to such complicated feelings and need to reject them—a feat that doesn’t just bear mentioning, but deserves high praise as well.

  • Mr. Sallitt lays down a customarily restrained mode of acting (the kind that somehow seems less flat and more natural in French cinema), but it’s in the service of a rare lucidity about feeling.

  • Instead of being creepy, The Unspeakable Act is an affirmation of Sallitt’s originality, bravery, and commitment as a filmmaker... Tender and incisive, the film lingers on taboo desires, and unfolds them gently to reveal the confused love at their heart.

  • Whatever density this universe lacks at its periphery it makes up for, oddly, with architecture at its center. The house that Jackie and Matthew inhabit with their mother and younger sister is a mercurial edifice befitting the vertiginous contours of their relationship...

  • As viewers, we constantly analyze and critique a movie's characters, basing our judgments on our own ideas of taste, ethics, and morality. We're conditioned to accept the strictest notions of right and wrong: good guys and bad guys; proper and improper behavior. The Unspeakable Actchallenges these notions in part because Sallitt refuses to judge his characters; there are no good guys or bad guys, only believable, acutely rendered people whose shortcomings are innately human.

  • Sallitt's refined yet humorous approach to the subject matter is distinctly European, a comparison which he invites with his dedications to masters of French cinema.

  • Once I acclimated myself to the slight stiltedness... Medel's performance really grew on me, and the use of incestuous desire as a minor-key metaphor became quite affecting. This might sound weird, but I perceive the film as a more hopeful version of the meat-grinder sequence in Pink Floyd The Wall. Dan's compositions are predictably strong, too—the way he shoots the therapist's office, in particular, over the course of multiple scenes, is inspired.

  • In some ways an anti-Margaret, the film takes a potential crisis situation and vastly underplays it, while sharing the same general structure regarding the first unsteady footsteps into a broader world. The meticulousness of its construction is echoed by the gentle slyness of Sallitt’s camera, which furtively comments on the action throughout, offering suggestions on how to interpret what we’re seeing...

  • Sallitt's careful scripting and direction give his film a lightly novelistic aura: sometimes Jackie's narration reflects on the events we see; at other moments it wanders off, filling the quiet spaces in the soundtrack with charmingly digressive reflections. Our sense of closeness to Jackie owes just as much to Tallie Medel's sometimes droll, often understated, but always absorbing performance...

  • Trying to account for the beauty, power, and tenderness of this fine 2012 American independent feature by Dan Sallitt—about the potentially incestuous bond between a brother and sister, and the sister’s traumatic difficulties in sorting out and working through her own feelings about it—I’m immediately reminded of the beauty, power, and tenderness of my favourite single sentence in Andrew Sarris’ The American Cinema...

  • Sallitt’s target isn’t intellectualism so much as the way in which people who self-identify as “educated” can hide behind intellectualization—a theme that makes the movie’s dedication to Eric Rohmer seem all the more apt.

  • Though the romance is complicated by the fact that it occurs between a smitten teenage girl and her protesting brother, the film’s humor is driven by neither farce nor cynicism but droll observation. In the process, it proves that “literary” is a term best applied to cinema not for grandiose, stretched-out narratives but for quiet communication that can be traced in posture and glance as much as speech.

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