Writer-director Lynn Shelton evinces a better grasp of texture than substance in "We Go Way Back." Tale of a 23-year-old aspiring actress experiencing an all-too-vague internal crisis is ultimately too underdeveloped and slight to have much impact, though the helmer's impressionistic uses of image and sound are appealing.

Moving from experimental and doc shorts to feature narrative, writer-director Lynn Shelton evinces a better grasp of texture than substance in “We Go Way Back.” Tale of a 23-year-old aspiring actress experiencing an all-too-vague internal crisis is ultimately too underdeveloped and slight to have much impact, though the helmer’s impressionistic uses of image and sound are appealing. Women’s fests and Amerindie showcases rep the most apt outlets for this narrative feature jury award winner Slamdance.

Having just broken up with a steady b.f., Kate (Amber Hubert) is adrift — though there’s no indication she’s ever been very focused or assertive. As her reward for paying dues at a local theater company, she’s given the plum role of Hedda Gabler in their next production. Her director (Robert Hamilton Wright) spends less time worrying over the fact she’s far too young for the role and lacks the required gravitas than he does concerning himself with his increasingly daft interpretive concepts (littering stage with potatoes, making Hedda, alone, speak Norwegian). Meanwhile, Kate drinks too much, maintains a deadening day job, and carelessly sleeps with a variety of male acquaintances.

As a 13-year-old she’d written letters to her future self, to be opened on each successive birthday. Dwelling on these long-ago hopes amid a less-than-satisfying adult present, Kate edges toward nervous breakdown. At one point the adolescent Kate (Maggie Brown) simply materializes in the here-and-now, shadowing the bewildered grownup and proving to be more than a delusional figment.

But this supernatural occurrence leads nowhere in particular, and the presumed catharsis Kate has undergone by end means little, since she’s remained a psychological cipher throughout.

Ben Kasulke’s photography and soundtracked songs by Northwestern indie bands brighten this diverting but ultimately weightless effort.

Produced by Seattle-based collective the Film Co., the nation’s first non-profit film studio, tech contributions are very polished on what were no doubt slim means.

We Go Way Back

Production

A Film Co. production. Produced by Peggy Case, Gregg Lachow. Executive producer, Lachow. Directed, written by Lynn Shelton.

Crew

Camera (color), Ben Kasulke; editors, Shelton, Michelle Witten; music, Laura Veirs; production designer, Tania Kupczak; sound, Vince Smith. Reviewed at Slamdance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 26, 2006. Running time: 80 MIN.

With

Amber Hubert, Maggie Brown, Robert Hamilton Wright, Aaron Blakely, Basil Harris, Russell Hodgkinson, Sullivan Brown.
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