A sweet-tempered, zero-budget look at twentysomethings adrift in San Francisco, “One Thousand Years” does a good job of capturing a difficult subject: romantic obsession in the face of bland ambivalence. Mix of pro and amateur thesps occasionally slips into home-movie territory, with novel use of S.F. locations seen in varying degrees of clarity, while offbeat millennial angle of the title takes a long time to develop. But first-time helmer Gabriel Fleming shows a real flair for conveying small nuances of real life. Pic will win some hearts at alternative and youth-minded fests, although pic is too small to register on distribbing radar.
Dark-eyed Mara Gerstein makes a winsome impression as Maria, a would-be photographer who, while at a pal’s noisy house party, meets a diffident-yet-soulful crop-haired artist named Keith (Soren Gray). She can’t shake thoughts of the guy, even though his responses to her are tepid at best. In a series of vignettes, she confesses what little there is to say about the situation to her best friend (Abby Page), a lesbian who has her own unspoken thing for Maria.
Main story is intercut with fanciful fable of two humans, one from a thousand years in the past (Phil Young) and one from just as far in the future (Nancy Stone), who have been sent through time to find a book that could save humanity from its apocalyptic tendencies.
Sci-fi aspect of this subplot isn’t really exploited; instead, linking segs parallel the unrequited romance(s), with the eventual payoff that the time travelers give up their search and decide to write their own book and copy it at Kinko’s! The implication is that men and woman have to complete their own stories, even when the raw ingredients are as nebulous as they are with Maria and Keith. (It’s bad enough when nothing happens in a whole night spent together in bed, but when he disavows their first and only kiss, the scene is truly heartbreaking.)
Music in the Erik Satie vein (with some songs by co-star Gray) helps support the gently mopey mood, and Fleming is especially sensitive to life’s minute effects, whether a comment overheard in neighborhood cafe, a dog yapping after a car crash, or light reflected from a CD onto an empty bedroom ceiling.