It’s true that This Closeness, by rising writer-director-star Kit Zauhar, may be too small in scale for some. But a recent trip to New York where this writer stayed alone in a West Village studio apartment oddly went about helping understand the particulars of the film a little bit better, even if it may be technically set in Philadelphia. Compressed urban living is universal, one supposes. 

It charts the relationship between Tessa (the aforementioned Zauhar) and Ben (Zane Pais), who are in town for the latter’s high school reunion. They find themselves taking up residence in a walk-up Airbnb apartment (which the film won’t leave throughout its 88-minute runtime) instead of his family home. They’re not alone, though. There’s still the resident Adam (Ian Edlund), a socially awkward sports-video editor whose instantly hilarious demeanor (almost recalling the vampire Nosferatu’s gait at points) is a source of mockery for the couple. It may be a short stay, but it’s reflective of the living situation so many millennials and Gen Z’ers find themselves in: having to cohabitate a space from financial necessity. Adam even goes about neatly, somewhat eerily dividing the contents of the fridge into his and theirs. 

Tension emerges outside of Adam’s presence, as the inciting incident––a visit from an old high school friend (Jessie Pinnick) who still carries a flame for Ben––leads to questions about jealousy, but also nostalgia versus living in the present. Tessa is adamant that she’s “grown up” but still insecure, and one can see it coming that she’ll eventually gravitate more toward Adam than her seemingly solid boyfriend––not that the strange third wheel is a great guy but it’s easy, after all, to read sensitivity into mystery. The characterization of Adam building into something empathetic, but not a pat humanist, feels inherited from a screenwriting class that clears him of any negative qualities. 

The film is made with a great deal of formal control, and even though the low stakes and small scale will have it be compared to mumblecore films, this is far sleeker than the average Joe Swanberg joint of yesteryear: long takes, a fixed camera, strategic employment of close-ups, and a rich soundscape (the audio emanating from outside the window of traffic and birdsong is instantly identifiable to anyone living in a city). Zauhar may stumble in conception when taking her character’s ASMR YouTube therapy a little too much into consideration, making the film cross over into a kind of New Age-y tweeness that’s hard to decipher in terms of seriousness. The whispery tone of many exchanges between the three central characters is already enough to set that mood. 

Whatever issues reside, the film effectively communicates how we’re all fundamentally lonely and what comes from the process of talking to yourself over and over, an individual’s minor insecurities building into grand crevasses for a relationship. Maybe Zauhar’s film isn’t totally surprising; it nevertheless hits close to home while never veering too hard into either cringe comedy or navel-gazing. A promising sign there’s still juice left in the small-scale relationship drama indie.

This Closeness opens on June 7 in theaters and arrives on MUBI on July 3.

Grade: B

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