Overview: A young autistic boy becomes lost in the New York City subway as his mother frantically searches for him. Oscilloscope; 2014; Unrated; 100 Minutes
Mumblecore Plus: It’s 2014, and I think we can now safely say that we’ve made enough films about New York City. They’re almost all variations on the same theme: “This city sure does have a diverse population, and everyone here’s got a story to tell.” That manifests in different ways — the New York of Zodiac is filthy and dangerous while the New York of Stand Clear of the Closing Doors doesn’t deviate from that track, but there’s something to be said for its perspective. The main character Ricky’s (Jesus Valez) difficulty with seeing the forest for the trees is what gets him lost on the subways, and the film uses this point of view to adopt an almost impressionistic aesthetic in certain scenes. One sequence in particular was reminiscent of the opening scene of Under the Skin, all indistinct circles of light and repetitive muttering. Director Sam Fleischner has a far more visual sensibility than one might expect out of a mumblecore-adjacent film like this. He loves giving his actors a ton of headspace, so that their surroundings appear to swallow them up. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t fully commit to this style, but the segments that do are often fascinating.
Blank Stare: The problem is that this unique perspective is only used to depict that age-old NYC theme. There are a lot of people on the subway, and the film spends a lot of time on Ricky observing them. But nobody that Ricky watches is interesting, and the film fails to use his point-of-view to render these old New York cliches in a fresh way; the camera’s view of them is very matter-of-fact and Ricky himself is impossible to read. It feels like a big missed opportunity, and you have to wonder why the filmmakers were interested in making the film at all if they weren’t planning on doing this. The arrival of Hurricane Sandy lends the story some poignancy, but it feels crass to co-opt such a major real-life disaster for a fiction film.
Round Trip: Stand Clear of the Closing Doors gets off to a good start, but its structure is frustratingly repetitive. Ricky rides the subway, his mother (Andrea Suarez) searches for him, rinse, repeat. The mother’s story hints at an immigration theme, but goes nowhere with it. Ricky’s scenes are all too similar to each other. It adds to the intended immersion in his viewpoint, but that doesn’t make them any more interesting. The film sacrifices far too much on the altar of Authenticity.
Wrap-Up: Stand Clear of the Closing Doors boldly flirts with impressionism, but it fails to offer an interesting perspective on its setting or its characters.