There’s more movie in the first three minutes of John Magary’s feature debut than there is in entire film trilogies: a cacophonous swirl of honking horns and barking dogs soundtracking a night in the life of a deadbeat. Mat (Josh Lucas), a scraggly NYC thirtysomething whose barely functioning laptop is all that separates him from vagrancy, blows into the apartment of his girlfriend (Lucy Owen), has sex with her, says hi to her son, storms out in a screaming fit, wanders the streets, gets kicked out of a coffeeshop and ends up as an unexpected guest at the Harlem house party that his estranged brother, Alan (Stephen Plunkett), is throwing for a ballet company. When Alan leaves for a vacation the next morning, he doesn’t realize that Mat is still passed out in his guest room. And that’s just the start.
It’s hard to describe the unique staccato energy of The Mend—the film is cut so elliptically that it feels like it’s always breathing in—but the experience of watching it is like having somebody else’s nervous breakdown. By ruthlessly editing out any semblance of setup, Magary ensures that you’re always in the moment but slightly off-balance. Prickly violin strings stab at every scene, their percolating madness disguising a rather sweet and cunningly funny story of brothers learning how to be honest with each other and themselves. Josh Lucas is a feral revelation in the lead role, and Stephen Plunkett is his perfect foil, but it’s Lucy Owen who gets the best and most telling lines: “You lie more as you get older,” she says, “and then at some point, you start lying less because you realize there’s not much point.” The Mend finds the truths that bind families together, but it knows that everyone has to hack their own path to get there.
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