Monday, June 15, 2020


God. I’ve known her for a long time. I guess I see her differently...

Breaking up with or separating yourself from a longtime childhood friend is complicated and incredibly difficult. Some might say it’s more difficult than breaking up with a romantic partner (although I imagine marriage/divorce can make things incredibly difficult from a legal standpoint). Even though you may grow close with a long time lover or spouse, there’s still a strong chance that you haven’t known that person as long or as intimately as a childhood friend (I know there’s a difference between a relationship with a romantic partner and a platonic friend but you do put in a lot of personal & intimate time with both which makes the comparison somewhat fair in my book). And I’m not trying to downplay romantic breakups or divorces but rarely has an ex been with you since childhood. A long time friend has watched you essentially become/find yourself. Transitioning with them from grade school in to (early) adulthood is a long time and a lot happens in between. It gets to the point where you’ve been through so much with each other and you’ve become accustomed to so many things that they’ve just essentially become a part of your life. The idea of no longer being friends is the farthest thing from your mind. But it happens.

That’s pretty much the case in Dan Sallitt’s Fourteen.

In the film we follow the declining friendship of “Jo” (Norma Kuhling) & “Mara” (Talliee Medel). Mara is slightly more stable and is trying to manage her career, her love life and her uneven friendship with Jo. Jo is more of a “free spirit”. Mara definitely gives the most and receives the least. Early on we get the sense that’s always how it’s been. But after years of this dynamic it’s starting to exhaust Mara because she’s become more like a parent to the unstable Jo and less like a friend/mutual. As the film unfolds we learn some of the source of Jo’s instability and why it’s important for Mara to remove herself from their relationship (it's important to note that while Jo is definitely a lot to deal with at times, she's not a bad person).

You need something all the time. It gets difficult. - Mara

Fourteen is an important film because it shows multiple sides of depression, addiction & mental illness. We see the depressed character's side of things (in one very heartfelt moment in particular) but we also see how depression & mental instability can affect those that try to help. Throughout the film Mara makes countless sacrifices and drops what she’s doing on multiples occasions to tend to Jo and the situations that she creates. Now...part of being a (good) friend is the ability to be there for others when times are tough. But when someone else’s needs take priority over your own all the time - perhaps it’s time to change the dynamic or, in Mara's case, slowly step away.
There’s only so much you can do for self-destructive/self-sabotaging people. As the film unfolds we see that Mara has her own life, career and other important life decisions that have to take precedent over constantly helping Jo. And Jo does need help. But it isn’t Mara’s job to help her (and it certainly starts to feel like a job).

This may sound weird to those that have seen Fourteen but there’s a soulful Bressonian style of delivery from the actors that really intrigued me. I say “Bressonian” because through most of the film there is somewhat of an intentional deadpan/calming style of delivery from the actors that really fascinated me. I added “soulful” because unlike Robert Bresson’s use of his characters as almost machines or predetermined game pieces (that’s not a criticism), Sallitt’s characters in Fourteen are more humanistic & relatable. Loving a director’s work isn’t always synonymous with being overtly influenced by them but it should be noted that Sallitt has at least one Bresson film included in every one of his (extensive) best of the decade lists on his own personal film site (click here). That has to count for some sort of subconscious influence...

Note the similar tone in delivery between Charles in Bresson's The Devil Probably (top) and Mara in Fourteen (below)...
The Devil Probably


The characters in both Sallitt & Bresson's films talk about more serious subject matter in a similar tone...

The Unspeakable Act (Sallitt)

Fourteen would make for nice triple bill with Hal Hartley’s Flirt & Kevin Smith’s Clerks (two other films that come from the school of Bresson in a sort of indirect way). Some of the conversations between the characters in Fourteen reminded me of Randall & Dante in Clerks. The only difference is the characters in Fourteen are a bit more mature in my opinion and have more ambition (especially in Mara’s case).

Clerks /

There are also a few really cool Akerman-esque moments as well (long unbroken shots, a camera set in one place following a character around a room, etc). In my opinion Chantal Akerman is another filmmaker in the same lane an Bresson so these comparisons & similarities make a lot of sense to me...
Toute Une Nuit /
Les Rendezvous D'Anna /

I enjoyed Fourteen very much. If you’re a completist of Sallitt’s work it makes for the perfect follow-up to his previous feature. We see actress Tallie Medel play a young woman (Mara) that has to make an incredibly tough decision much like the character she played in The Unspeakable Act (2012). Perhaps the team of Sallitt & Medel can work together on another project a few years down the road and make an unofficial trilogy of films that takes us from high school (The Unspeakable Act), through the 20's/early 30's (Fourteen) and in to our 40's and possibly beyond...

It’s important to stream & support movies like this in a time when filmmaking & film distribution is on uncertain & shakey grounds. That’s not to say major studio films aren’t in trouble but there has to be a place for independent movies like Fourteen to exist. Click here to rent/stream it virtually...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...