Don’t laugh, but Colin Farrell discovers his inner fluffy bunny in this sensitive drama about the urge to belong. He’s totally persuasive as sweet-natured twentysomething charmer Bobby, who arrives in early ’80s Greenwich Village after a Midwest upbringing marked by tragedy and abandonment, to hook up again with Jonathan (Dallas Roberts), his best friend through their teenage years of fumbling discovery. The bond between them is put to the test however, in a decidedly unconventional ménage-à-trois, since Bobby moves into the flat openly gay Jonathan shares with Claire (Robin Wright-Penn), a ‘kooky’, slightly broody older woman who scrapes a living as a hat designer. As the storyline runs through successive variations on boy meets boy meets girl, sexually ambiguous Bobby soothes everyone’s emotional wounds, but is he suppressing his own needs at the expense of others?
Michael (‘The Hours’) Cunningham’s screen adaptation of his own novel is a pacy affair as character studies go, but for all its expounding on how we shape our own alternative families, its restless momentum privileges plot over character. These lives are tangled all right, but we’re getting the view from the outside rather than the inside. A shame it’s not more persuasive, really, because it’s patently a grown-up, sophisticated film début for stage director Mayer, where the acting alone keeps us absorbed. Sissy Spacek is a delight as Jonathan’s surprisingly unconventional suburban mom, Wright-Penn admirably grafts away at a virtually unplayable role, but it’s Farrell’s movie as the little-boy-lost whose accommodating supportiveness and sensuality never quite mask an aching neediness. Flawed, yet undeniably beguiling.