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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Nov. 4, 2011 | 10:35 PM

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AFI Fest Review: GREEN

When one thinks of tension, a New York City literay discussion doesn’t leap to mind, but that’s exactly where Sophia Takal kicks off her feature debut..  Not just any discussion either.  The three principals, none of whom are over thirty, sit in a café and argue the merits of Philip Roth vs. Marcel Proust as if their lives depended on it. What seems at first like a lazy shorthand for establishing characters proves to be anything but.  Beginning with its evocative yet economical title, GREEN quickly establishes itself as a tightly wound drama that doesn’t waste a frame.

Just as we’ve settled into New York, Takal cuts to a beautiful still frame of a verdant Virginia landscape, and the salon’s over. Our metropolitan couple Sebastian(Lawrence Michael Levine) and Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil) will barely find the key to their new front door before they find their assumptions challenged..  As their Subaru inches across the field into frame,  Takal plants the first of many strong visual cues that the natural order is about to be disturbed in no uncertain fashion.

GREEN shifts from shots of the fields and trees to the color of envy when the subletting couple meets their neighbor Robin (Takal), who wakes up from a night spent passed out on their lawn and begins to quickly enmesh herself in their lives.  At first everything seems innocent enough.  Sebastian’s busy working on what sounds like a typical project hatched from a hipster brain in Brooklyn. He’s come south to engage in a bit of sustainable farming so he can blog about the results.  Robin offers to entertain Gen while Sebastian works, and soon they’re sharing girl talk over a bag of fries from the local diner.

Things begin to unravel once Sebastian begins to warm to Robin’s natual charisma and stops treating her as a mildly annoying local yokel.  From Genevieve’s perspective, once her boyfriend starts attempting to explain an upcoming NY art installation to their cute hick neighbor, it’s time for the gloves to come off.  Part of this is paranoia, part stems from the simple truth that after three years together, her life with Sebastian has lost its magic.  “He’s so stupid”, she tells Robin in one of their happier moments.

Takal gets great performances from both Sheil and Levine, both of whom seem to have different reactions to their change in landscape..  Levine makes us feel that Sebastian is warming up to small town life, where Sheil establishes early on that she’s always going to be a New Yorker.  But Takal’s performance as Robin steals the show.  We don’t know whether she intends to steal Sebastian away from the moment she lays eyes on him, but she does a remarkable job of using her charisma and Southern Charm to chip away at his resistance.

The real miracle of GREEN is how much it manages to accomplish in within its scant 73 minute running time. Takal presumes that jealousy is a horror on par with any other, and proves it in no unccertain terms. The film is shot in a fluid, intimate style by cinematographer Nandan Lao, and this combines with Ernesto Carcamo’s eerie score to give the proceedings a genuine sense of dread.  Beginning with three fully fleshed out characters, GREEN takes the viewer on a journey that’s messy, insightful, and all too real.

GREEN will have its second and final screening at the 2011 AFI Fest Presented by Audi on Saturday, November 5th at the Mann Chinese theater in Hollywood.  For tickets, visit

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