A meditation on isolation and intersection in the big city - the layered story of three characters who find courage to move to the next stage of life through profound encounters with strangers they meet on their daily routes. Rose, an optometrist paralyzed by crushing grief after the death of her infant, has built a wall around herself, unable to relate to her estranged husband or anyone else. When an elderly patient, a painter losing his eyesight, begins to visit her office unannounced, Rose registers how alone he is, urging him to reach out and ask for help--something neither does easily. Meanwhile Simon, a late-blooming teenager with an overbearing mother, photographs people at a distance with a borrowed long lens. One day, Rose, beautiful and melancholy in a vibrant scarf, comes into focus in his camera sight. The pictures he shoots become a conduit for each of them to touch something deep within and expand their confining existence. - Caroline Libresco Written by
The Sundance Film Guide
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Though there have been many films of late that address the issues of the isolation of the individual in a society increasingly settling for homogeneity, few have the honesty and simplicity of presentation as Alfredo De Villa's ADRIFT IN MANHATTAN. Perhaps the reason this film works so well is that instead of dealing with the usual tropes, De Villa restricts his story to three individuals who are suffering isolation in the noise and autonomy of New York City and are thus 'adrift' in a life that seems flat and without a beacon of hope. The story De Villa weaves is one of interaction of these characters by almost serendipitous incidents, moments that change their lives - at least for a while.
Teenager Simon Colon (Victor Rasuk) lives with his overbearing mother Marta (Marlene Forte) and gets through his life almost without speaking, working in a camera shop, spending his idle hours photographing people in the park. Tommaso Pensara (Dominic Chianese) is an elderly painter and music lover who lives alone and supports himself by being the 'mail boy' in a large firm: his loneliness is heightened when he discovers he has macular degeneration and will go blind. The physician who makes his diagnosis is Dr. Rose Phipps (Heather Graham) who is grieving from the recent death of her 2-year old child and is unable to continue her marriage to literature professor Mark Phipps (William Baldwin).
The threads of coincidence begin to tie these people together when Simon begins to photograph Rose in a manner that resembles stalking, when Tommaso notices and desires and older lady at his workplace, Isabel Parades (Elizabeth Peña) and is encouraged by Dr Rose to share his potential blindness with this friend, and when Rose explores the attention Simon bestows on her, filling an emotional need for both parties. Naturally the development of these intersections is more complex but at the same time the manner in which they develop is very tender and gentle.
Some viewers may find the film meandering a bit too much: this is not linear storytelling but rather shifts in incidents and moods and gradual changes that occur among these simple but needy people, much like the coincidences and random kindnesses occur to the sensitive eye. The cast is very fine and the cinematography and musical score sustain the mood of the piece. This film requires involvement on the part of the viewer, and that involvement has its rewards. Grady Harp
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