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The question of why we are here and who we should be spending our time with is a conundrum for many as we make our way through life. It’s both a powerful and confusing force that drives us almost relentlessly to seek out comforting companionship, and it’s that force which has been behind what is essentially an entire genre of film where the lonely and unsure scratch out reasons to keep going. With Fallen Stars, a man and a woman on different paths come together in uncertain ways in this quiet and deeply-personal film that may fit comfortably in the genre but has a voice all its own.
Cooper (Ryan O’Nan) is in his early thirties and wholly adrift, now in his tenth year working as a bar tender at a middling lounge. He’s desperately lonely, looking for direction but finding it nowhere. He longs for company, to be with a girl, to share something, anything, drawn to them in ways that only make him sad. He lies on his tattered sofa all day, waiting for the hours to pass. And pass they do. He’s practically numb.
Then there’s Daisy (Michelle Ang), a mid-twenty-something with purple streaks in her hair, who lingers at the dog pound, connecting with a pooch that she can’t bare to take home, the commitment perhaps too much. She is uncomfortable in her skin, shy and awkward, finding words themselves sometimes hardest to endure. By circumstance, she ends up at the end of Cooper’s bar one night and while the two are clearly drawn to each other, their own walls make it a chore to say they do. But they do, and in time, a friendship tenuously takes root. And then much more.
Written and directed by Brian Jett, Fallen Stars is another one of those walking romance movies where two meet-cutes get to known each other by strolling about whichever city they are trapped in and hit the sites as they share and care. It’s a common trope in the genre, made popular in the Richard Linklater ‘Before‘ trilogy, and many films make good use of it, allowing the characters to explore their setting and each other. Here, Jett doesn’t stick to the formula so much as use it to prop up the premise and it works well in breaking up the more still moments where the leads seem trapped both metaphorically and physically. These characters need to be moving.
What works best in Jett’s second feature film, is his use of space and setting to illustrate who Cooper and Daisy are, subtly capturing the abyss they are both endlessly circling. Cooper is seen constantly lodged behind the large bulk of the lounge bar, catering to the same patron every night, watching in repetition from afar the couples in the dining area come and go. Daisy frequents the local animal shelter and sits among caged dogs looking for their own way of escape. These are nice parallels in the arc of each and showcase the hurdles they must overcome. What’s interesting about Daisy is who she actually is, and while it might be a bit cliché in the long run, it does give her a bit more depth in understanding why is as she is.
Fallen Stars features two very natural performances from O’Nan and Ang, and each make it feel authentic. There’s a purposeful economy of dialogue throughout that keeps it sharp, and Jett maintains a gentle placidity to it that never feels manipulative, punctuated by a few well-earned outbursts that have great effect. A quite romance, Fallen Stars is well-directed and performed little gem that is full of surprises.
Movie description: Fallen Stars is a 2017 drama about two people at troubling stages of their lives who find a possible connection in each other that might make all the difference.
Director(s): Brian Jett
Actor(s): Ryan O'Nan, Michelle Ang
Genre: Romance, Drama