Marin Ireland (Woman in Apartment) plays the lead character, a troubled woman who resides in apartment 5F. This apartment is her whole life, her prison cell, and her master.
It’s been more than a year since she left her apartment or has come face-to-face with another human.
For the first 16 minutes of writer/director Noah Bushel’s ambitious two-hander Sparrows Dance, it’s just Woman and her apartment. Bushel drills in her deep agoraphobia with repetitive shots of her sullen seclusion with routine images of her sleeping and more than enough of her going to the bathroom. If she needs exercise she has a stationary bike, if she needs company she’ll watch an old movie and she has internet to accomplish the rest. When ordering Chinese food, we see her vicious tick that twitches her head worse than a ghost from a J-horror pick.
Her routine changes when a toilet malfunction forces her to let a plumber enter her apartmentThe friendly, motor-mouthed Wes (Paul Sparks), is predictably a lot for Woman to take in at first sight. When Wes is not fixing toilets, he is an aspiring saxophonist. Wes exudes a nervousness and confidence all at once with a Brooklyn beard and a hat to match.
Bushel and Ireland have done such a good job with their characters of building her fortress of solitude, that we, as an audience, also need time before Wes can break down this thick metaphorical wall. Sparks plays Wes with such a gentle energy that he is eventually able to get her to say yes to a date. This date, of course, will have to be at her place.
Their date is charming and beautiful — just the way that getting to know someone is supposed to feel. Wes is able to make her smile; when her smile is unleashed, it lights up the room. The night plays out as a sweet affair, one that Bushel takes time to develop in a long scene that is filmed in a wide shot.
Wes doesn’t run away when Woman tells him her secret. He then asks her to make her best effort to come to his upcoming gig. Real love is right there but Wes needs Woman to try and we, as the audience, pray she will try to leave the apartment.
Bushel delves deep into his director’s trick bag and produces strong stylistic choices, including a title sequence at the 32-minute mark and a stage-like production that at one point literally breaks down the fourth wall.
While Bushel’s flair propels the story; the film’s atmosphere is, for the most part, effective. Although, an intimate pillow-talk scene is all but lost with the combination of some shoddy sound mixing and Paul Sparks’ soft spoken mumbalaya .
“Those more than enough bathroom shots”… I get the monotony of The Woman’s living situation but I could have done with just one, at the most two shows of her on the can.
Take a Drink: whenever The Woman is on the toilet.
Take a Drink: whenever The Woman does her scary “tick”.
Down a Shot: when the fourth wall is broken.