What begins as an odd slice of life about young outsiders in Athens, Ga., ends as a cheery saga about a woman finding her voice as a writer in “Say Yes Quickly.” Just when pic is about to try one’s patience with narrative obsessions, leads Suli Holum and Brandon Bales bring it back to terra firma with refreshing energy and humanity. Smart, hip fests should line up, and the right distrib could tap into indie crowds looking for something new.
Distraught Hannah (Holum) narrates about her paralyzing grief at her father’s death, and how she retreated into long online sessions with a chat buddy with the handle, “@lien” . @lien isn’t your usual faceless love connection, but a serious mentor prodding Hannah to write a novel. Hannah’s roommate Dierdre (Megan Pearson), meanwhile, prods the reclusive Hannah to get out of the house.
Dierdre drags Hannah to a party where she’s spotted by Henry (Bales). The sort of flighty character who could either make the movie terminally precious or interesting, Henry extracts the conflicted young woman from her shell with his joie de vivre. He’s both a happy-go-lucky sort who likes playing Schubert on the trombone and a guy with a record who faces new drug-possession charges.
Henry’s about to go on the lam, and Hannah secretly wants to meet @lien face to face in San Francisco, and thus they become the latest outlaw movie couple to hit the road.
Hannah’s face, all aglow from her laptop monitor as she surreptitiously connects with @lien, reflects a range of emotions her character has a hard time gauging. This internal struggle vitalizes “Say Yes Quickly” when other dubious elements threaten to do it in — such as Stephanie Astalos-Jones as Hannah’s excessively stern mom, a needlessly weepy climax and a strenuously happy ending that feels imported from another movie.
“Blair Witch Project” producer Gregg Hale’s first work as director fluidly transfers co-screenwriter Rachel Davis’ unpublished novella into screen terms, with just the right touch of claustrophobia to suggest Hannah’s sedentary life and the welcome burst of outdoors America once Henry enters the picture. Beyond the Haxan Films moniker, only element new pic shares with “Blair Witch” is digital vid lensing — which is much sharper and kept out of thesps’ hands by d.p. Morgan Susser. Tim Nackashi’s score negotiates a fascinating blend of electronics and guitar. Title references a line by classical Persian poet Rumi.