Adam Christian Clark/ USA/ 2017/ 96 mins
Available on Amazon Prime Thu 14 Feb 2019
When a narcissist finds an artistic way to express his own narcissism, what is he? Is he an intelligent and introspective artist, or is he just another self-involved individual who has found a way to keep talking about himself?
With his latest film Newly Single, director Adam Christian Clark walks the fine line between mere self-involvement and human interest. He sets an autobiographical tone for his film by casting himself as the protagonist Astor Williams Stevenson – a director who, whimsically, has very little to talk about but himself.
Astor is fresh from a breakup with his long-time girlfriend. As he sets to shoot his new film (a project not devoid of obstacles and nuisances), he finds himself confronting his frustrations, his narcissism, and his solitude; all of which seem to bubble to the surface on account of the interactions with the many women that come and go from his life, ranging from actors and dates to his sister and ex-girlfriend.
There are many characters in the film – many women – who have a lot to say, as long as it is about Astor. They bring revelations: they appear in his life to make him realise something about himself. They exist merely for him to pontificate about himself, guiding him through the slow process of healing from his break-up.
The film opens with a woman commenting on an ex-date, a producer who is interested in ‘character-centred’ cinema, much like Astor – ironically, much like Clark himself. Newly Single deploys all the familiar tricks and tools that we know make a successful indie film: a meandering plot, some orchestral music on an urban background, fashionable apartments full of vinyl records and books, and endless talks about what it means to be an ‘artist’.
Among the commonplaces and the intellectual talk, though, Clark manages to successfully show something original – the unavoidable boredom, frustrations and the slow passing of time that are part our everyday lives. Astor does sprints in his pants, alone in his apartment after a date. He browses through pieces of vinyl to combat solitude, only to end up listening to music on his phone. He has girls sleep in his bed and fall in love with him, only to shut himself down for no apparent reason.
Newly Single is an elegant independent film, embellished by beautiful photography, and directed by a more than capable auteur who has no shame in being unforgiving towards himself. Unfortunately, the film succumbs to the protagonist’s ego, indulging itself in the very thing it seems to be trying to disapprove.