Welsh actor-turned-filmmaker Tom Cullen knows his way round a naturalistic, low-budget romance, having made his acting breakthrough in Andrew Haigh’s gem ‘Weekend’. Here he directs his IRL partner Tatiana Maslany (‘Orphan Black’) in Powys’s answer to ‘Blue Valentine’. Maslany’s aspiring producer Jenna and Jay Duplass’s cheerily ambition-free photographer Leon fall in love and drift apart over six years and six non-sequential vignettes. It’s rather lovely and endlessly relatable.
It’s not just the presence of ‘Cyrus’ director Duplass on screen that gives ‘Pink Wall’ a mumblecore vibe. With his camera up close and personal, Cullen lets his actors joust in long dialogue scenes as they chew over everything from the awesomeness of The Meters’ ‘Cissy Strut’ to their feelings about having kids. They fall in love and, occasionally, fall apart. There’s some pass-agg pasta eating and a dinner party which starts with good vibes and ends excruciatingly. Few scenes pass without something to say about relationships.
What makes it stand out from the well-stocked ranks of indie relationship dramas is the way Cullen plays with traditional gender expectations. ‘I don’t want to make myself small so you don’t feel insecure,’ Jenna tells Leon. These prickly exchanges are elevated by sparky turns from the two leads. You get why the pair would fall for each but you also get where the faultlines lie. Cullen maps it all out in an impressive, touching debut.