03rd Sep2019

‘Outside In’ VOD Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Edie Falco, Jay Duplass, Kaitlyn Dever, Ben Schwartz, Charles Leggett, Jay Duplass | Written by Lynn Shelton, Jay Duplass | Directed by Lynn Shelton

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Lynn Shelton is a director I’ve been a fan of for a while. I’m a fan of her 2011 film, Your Sister’s Sister. I like her 2014 film, Say When (aka Laggies) and she’s directed episodes of some of my favourite shows, such as GLOW and New Girl. I have no earthly idea why it’s taken me so long to see this, her 2017 indie-drama, Outside In. There’s a tone to Shelton’s films, and along with co-writer, Jay Duplass, who I’m also very fond of as a director (The Puffy Chair, Cyrus) and writer (Table 19), they’ve created a down-to-earth movie that has that realistic and subtle energy going on, a feel that I’ve always been attracted to.

Duplass himself played ex-con Chris, a man struggling to get back to a sense of normality on the outside in a small town that seems to know, or want to know, your ever waking moment. He forms a strong bond with his former high school teacher, Carol (Edie Falco) who took on his case when he was in prison. Alongside this relationship between Carol and Chris, we see Carol trying to fathom how to handle Chris’s intense feelings towards her while also navigating her relationships with her daughter Hildy, played by Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart) and her husband Tom (Charles Leggett).

The story is composed, not ever contrived or overly complex, allowing the characters themselves to shine and tell their stories through the numerous excellent performances on offer. Duplass, as Chris, is wonderfully sincere in his role, showing Chris as bare and muddled, his life messy and his feelings raw. Falco’s Carol is just as muddled but in a different way, split between keeping her family together whilst also feeling things towards Chris that she is unsure about how to deal with. Dever, as Hildy, is also terrific here, a sparky, funny yet uneasy teenager whose relationships with her parents and Chris provides some very interesting dynamics along the way. The cast do a brilliant job, with these three lead actors truly glowing. There’s a real sense of authenticity going down, a bold and gritty border that gives the whole film a convincingly human tone.

Shelton has a real knack for telling these kinds of stories, stories about situations that real people deal with in everyday life, and focusing the lens on a brief period of time that just happens to be explosive or awkward or difficult. With superb writing and a freeing direction, the cast are sublimely sincere and full of emotional complexities. It’s easy, with films of this nature, to connect with the characters, root for them and find relatability in their flaws and hardships. Shelton brought that out of them in Outside In and it really created a downcast yet hopeful message.

Outside In is a cloudy murky film on the surface with a beautifully truthful heart. Wonderful performances all around and formidable writing certainly places this high up on the list of Shelton’s already excellent filmography. Duplass and Falco bring the whole thing to life, it just so happens to be that the life in question is hard, demanding and trying. A stunning indie.

You can watch Outside In on Amazon Prime now.

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