Neither a pompous outburst in the fashion of Mel Gibson or a defiantly avant-garde Johnny Depp-style passion project, ‘Jack Goes Boating’ makes for an oddly unassuming directorial debut for Philip Seymour Hoffman (pictured), one of America’s most interesting actors. Starting life as a play produced by Hoffman’s NYC-based LAByrinth theatre company, it’s a talky, interior tale of four struggling thirtysomethings – sadsack Jack (Hoffman), his best pals, seemingly happy couple Clyde (John Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), and new friend Connie (Amy Ryan). The result is predictable – as one couple comes together, the other collapses – but lovingly presented: every performance is note-perfect and Hoffman directs with unfussy grace. The problem is that it’s all a little remote: avoiding any sense of messy reality, Hoffman opts instead for that studied tone of overcautious, awkwardly intellectual poise which has been the downfall of many a US indie. An admirably heartfelt, insightful debut, then, but a lack of genuine passion makes this a hard film to love.