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Friday, June 20, 2014

DVD Review: In Bloom

In Bloom tells the story of two young men who are in love but find themselves struggling with what they perceive as the ordinary routine of the relationship. It features good performances by the two leads, and a quiet, realistic approach to their story, against a Chicago backdrop and a threat of violence.

The film begins at a low-key party in which Kurt (Kyle Wigent) spots Paul (Tanner Rittenhouse) seated by himself on the couch, and goes to sit next to him. It seems he’s going to try to pick him up. But after a moment he asks, “So how have you been?” And it turns out they know each other. Kurt tells him he now has a normal job and hates it. After an awkward pause, Paul says, “I can’t believe it’s taken you this long to talk to me.” Kurt doesn’t know what to say to Paul. The scene is done almost entirely in singles, which is great, showing the distance from each other that they both feel though they’re next to each other. Paul asks, “What now?” And you feel suddenly that possibilities are opening for them. It’s a really nice scene about regrets and the chance to move forward into the unknown.

Interestingly, after making the viewer think of possible futures for these characters, the film then goes back to seven months earlier. Paul works stocking shelves at a grocery store. Kurt sells pot (so his line about having a job carries more significance), and Paul doesn’t smoke. They’re already together, so it’s not one of those films that go back to the beginning to relate each step in a relationship. Almost immediately we learn, through a television newscast, that there is a series of murders in Boys Town. So that sense of danger hangs over the events of the film, though Kurt doesn’t let it affect him too much.

On the beach they play the game of looking at other people, saying who they’re attracted to. I’m glad the camera remains on them, not showing the men they’re looking at, because it’s not really about those men. Their particulars aren’t important. And by not showing them, the film tells us that Paul and Kurt aren’t taking this game at all seriously, that they’re not going after the men they see. But it also tells us that the idea of Someone Else is in their heads. This film really sticks closely with Paul and Kurt, with lots of close-ups, and because of that, it has an intimate feel.

They have minor arguments, like when Paul tries to get Kurt to eat some of his food at a restaurant, and these work to give the film a realistic feel.  And they each express some longing for change. Paul wants to travel, saying he’s tired of the same old thing (not that he could afford to go to Europe on a stock boy’s wages). And later Kurt talks to a friend about how there might be someone better out there, and that possibility itself is enough to make him destroy a relationship.

Two other men come into play during the course of their relationship. Kevin (Adam Fane) is a man who buys pot from Kurt and hits on him. (That leads to the oddest line of the film, when Kurt says to him on the phone: “How about I head over in about an hour? I’m going to make a sandwich first.” An hour? That must be some sandwich.) Eddie (Jake Andrews) is an awkward young man who works with Paul and who is trying to come to terms with his sexuality. He invites him to his birthday party, telling him he doesn’t have many friends. I really like what Jake Andrews does with Eddie, elevating him from what could easily have been a two-dimensional character.

Of course, we know from the opening scene that their relationship is in trouble, that they will break up. After they do, there’s a nice sequence where they each sit on the edge of a bed, facing toward the camera, and it’s like they’re looking at each other, but they’re in separate apartments. Sadly, it’s followed by a silly montage of them unhappy after the breakup, with Kurt painting his face and going to a club, and Paul drinking by himself. It’s one of the few things in the film that doesn’t quite ring true.

In Bloom was written and directed by C.M. Birkmeier, and was released on DVD on June 3, 2014 through TLA Releasing. The DVD includes the film’s trailer.

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