The rise and fall of a relationship is the focus of Chris McKay’s flawed but serious debut feature, “2 wks, 1 yr.” Leaning on the tradition of Euro and Asian cinematic treatments of the subject, McKay’s drama is set in a contempo Chicago that features nighttime bars, daytime offices and everyday domestic intimacy and instability. The attention centers on confident lead thesps Michael Gilio and Krissy Shields as the lovers, in a story that resonates within a two-tiered time structure, which simultaneously looks back on both the year-long relationship and on the final two weeks of 1999, when the couple nearly falls apart. Severe drawback is extremely poor video lensing which will challenge attempts at a decent film transfer, and thus any chance at wider theatrical exposure. Fest dates, though, are a sure thing.
The choice of shooting on video is an ongoing concern of low-budget filmmakers, but the example of “2 Wks, 1 Yr” suggests that it might be worth waiting to get the resources to shoot on film. From unsightly flesh tones to a total loss of detail in long shots, the vid image (care of d.p. Scott Stearns) constantly works against the intended impact of this intimately scaled chamber work. In a loose, fast-cutting pic like “Manito,” such a mediocre image can perhaps suffice, but in McKay’s plentiful long-held shots, the results are nearly unwatchable.
Gilio’s Kevin is a glib, superficial guy, and Shields’ Julie, a woman who tends bar and has gone through a series of non-starter dates and affairs. Not too long into the pic, after the couple is playfully deciding where to go for the Y2K New Year, they’re suddenly kaput, launching a reflective gaze back on the 12 months prior.
At first, McKay seems to lack confidence in his aud to follow along, as insert cards indicating either day, time or month flash by to an alarming degree. Even without the visual aids, it’s clear the pic is tracking Kevin and Julie through the days leading up to and past Christmas toward New Year’s and a review of each month in ’99 up to December. Sounding more mechanical than it plays, the time tracks build emotional resonance that grows stronger into the final stretches.
At first, Julie appears to place more importance on the relationship than does Kevin, underlined by her mother’s (Belinda Bremner) warnings to not jump into things too fast. With our awareness of the breakup to come, the viewer is attentive to the smallest details in the month-by-month observations within the relationship, as well as the more obvious ones. While Kevin has a bad habit of examining the bedsheets for tell-tale signs of another body, it is he who is suspect when another woman (Ann Rickoff) momentarily becomes more than just a friend to him.
Shields is given more chances for her character to release past grief and baggage, though some of it feels artificially tacked on. This isn’t needed, since there’s plenty to consider in the quiet, occasionally wordless, exchanges between Gilio and Shields. That Julie is a more damaged but more complete person than Kevin doesn’t detract from a wonderfully ambiguous conclusion set in New Orleans (when time has wound back to the present, at Y2K), which can be read either as three alternative scenarios of the couple either finally splitting or making up, or as a truly happy, but still open-ended finale.
A better production package would have made a pivotal difference in pic’s final impression, but McKay (a pro editor) shows facility in his complex editing scheme. Several dissolves, in screened vid form, are extremely rough. Marcelo Zarvos’ eclectic score is a standout, with touches of electronics and hints of jazz and serial music.