Slamdance Film Review: I Play with the Phrase Each Other

Posted January 22, 2014 in
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I Play with the Phrase Each Other
Slamdance Film Festival
Director: Jay Alvarez

I Play with the Phrase Each Other is a film solely consisting of phone calls, filmed solely on cell phones and shown in black and white. Director Jay Alvarez, who plays Sean, has constructed a plot where his character urges Jake (Will Hand) to move to “the city”—Portland—to indulge in the glory of the Bohemian life of 20-somethings. Once Jake arrives, though, Sean’s possessions have been pilfered by a junkie with whom he’s staying, and Jake’s “in” to city life is no longer viable. Jake stays in a hostel, looking for work and food stamps, since he’s unemployed, and Sean begins a job as a restaurant host, living with an ex-girlfriend (or, at least, a former partner with whom he had a dalliance). Intermittently through the film are phone calls between Erin (Megan Kopp), who works at the same bookstore that Jake did before moving, and her confidante; her subplot follows a budding romance with a new beau. Her previous relationship to Jake slowly reveals itself as he unfolds his neurotic psyche regarding love, sex and his mother to his best friend, Zane. Although the technical conceit of the film is an interesting lure, it falls flat in that the phone conversations would have been more likely to have happened in the ’90s—especially in light of the sheer amount that these 20-somethings with cell phones, who likely have texting capabilities, have longwinded, verbal chats, which renders their phone calls too much of a novelty to seem realistic. What’s more is that, with this premise, Jake’s and Zane’s conversations are so highfalutin and devoid of the usual gait of phone conversation that they come across as too perfect and overly rehearsed, like a Shakespearean play on a theatre stage with contemporary jargon—and they’re so angst-y and existential! I suppose that romanticizing the idea of the phone conversation in today’s hyper-technological age is an attractive avenue, but the sense of an alternate dimension for it to be believable with cell phones was not distinguished enough to make this movie work.