I Play with the Phrase Each Other (15)
Directed by: Jay Alvarez
Starring: Jay Alvarez, Will Hand, Megan Kopp | See full cast and crew
Running time: 110 min
The first feature film composed entirely of cell phone calls.
The story these phone calls shape begins with Jake, a young neurotic who is persuaded to leave his small home town and move to the city to live with his friend Sean, a fanatical poet who survives by swindling inexperienced Craigslist customers. When Jake arrives in the city, Sean has disappeared and, as he struggles to secure a job and a place to stay, Jake discovers a nocturnal world of neon poverty in which his friend is thriving.
Sean (Jay Alvarez) is a very smooth talking poet, who uses language and words like an artist would use a brush and pallet to paint an exquisite landscape. He invites his good friend Jake (Will Hand) to come and stay with him city.
Jake is the complete opposite to Sean. Whereas Sean is certainly more confident in both his surroundings and his interactions with other inhabitants, Jake sadly is not. Jake decides to take up his friend’s offer and leave his quiet home (and his own protected little world) and move to the big city
However, things do not pan out exactly as he had imagined as Sean has left his lodgings due to a robbery and Jake must try and track him down.
I Play With The Phrase Each Other is shot entirely on black and white film and almost the entire film’s dialogue takes place during mobile phone conversations. This is both the film’s strength and sadly its weakness.
Writer and Director Jay Alverez, who is also the star of this picture, has created a film where the audience must eavesdrop on the conversations of its characters. Every little nuance of the story is played in these phone conversations involving friends, work colleagues, customers and family members.
Whilst this is an interesting concept for a short film, for a full feature length picture, the idea simply runs out of steam. The audience is left feeling like an uninvited guest at best and an incredible nosy parker at worst. With some of the conversations becoming a little graphic in content (one involving the rape of a friend left me more than little uneasy), it becomes a chore to try and view without wishing to simply walk away and let them have their conversation.
The pacing is incredibly slow moving; perhaps the characters are unable to move in case they lose signal! The film is very dialogue heavy with no real dramatic set pieces and it requires the audience to simply focus on the characters’ voices. These too begin to grate upon the ears as more than one character’s moans would have you reaching for the mute button.
It is interesting that the entire film has been shot in black and white as this does indeed add a layer to the blandness at times of the conversations. True this is a small budget film, and the sets are minimalistic at times, but the photography and lack of colour seem to make the images on screen expand in depth.
This is part drama/part art house picture, and one that certainly deserves some credit to its cast and Writer/Director. Sadly though, as a comment on modern society’s obsession with voyeurism it’s ironic that listening and watching is something of a chore.