Diagnosed some 37 years ago by the poet laureate of the great state of New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen’s song and album of the same name, The Darkness on the Edge of Town, posited that one’s mid-20s can be a confusing time: it’s either time to grow up or shut up. Amplified perhaps by the trend of emerging adulthood — due in part to the dwindling economic prospects faced by college graduates that find themselves overqualified, underpaid and on the edge — a certain kind of envy of those with flexibility can develop amongst the most successful in a generation: Big Significant Things is a complex exploration of the contemporary yuppie living in his own Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Far from Springsteen’s stomping grounds of Monmouth County, we find another Jersey native, Craig (Harry Lloyd), who is in the middle of a solo spiritual journey en route to San Francisco where his girlfriend has been house hunting. The purpose of the trip is slightly ambiguous; wandering around the south he makes a habit of stopping at “world’s largest” landmarks, spending a day or two in one place. He connects with teens in Shreveport and eventually the kind of woman that will haunt him for the rest of his life, Ella (Krista Kosonen), a beauty from Finland.


Recalling Morgan J. Freeman’s Desert Blue (another film about a character obsessed with roadside attractions), Bryan Reisberg’s Big Significant Things explores a kind of haunting psychological geography as Craig cuts out on his own, on his own terms for the first time perhaps ever. Restrained, we know little about Craig, garnering information over the phone from those that know him in real life and the narrative he chooses to tell locals he yearns to connect with, including a group of high school kids he buys beer for, Ella and her friends, and local clerks from whom he’s just another traveler.

The major flaw of Big Significant Things is the stakes aren’t greater, but perhaps this is life: Craig is having an experience on the open road that doesn’t appear to have life-altering consequences. While Wendy and Lucy, another narratively sparse film about a wayward traveler on the edge, had intense consequences, Craig’s journey could come to an end at anytime by simply driving to the nearest regional airport and hopping a flight to the west coast.

Authentic as it is potentially alienating, Big Significant Things held my attention until a party scene that could have gone horribly wrong. Writer-director Reisberg navigates this material in such a way that feels realistic within the bounds of Craig, the kind of guy that rarely takes risks. The film also shares this conservative and narratively sparse approach: as an emotional landscape study, the film is superb and beautifully shot with an engaging performance by Lloyd who’s given so little to do. The story of a fellow wayward traveler searching for meaning and perhaps finding it, Big Significant Things is a minor triumph even if the measure of the things as either big or significant is relative.

Big Significant Things opens on Friday, July 27th in New York and on VOD.

Grade: B

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