Four quietly told tales about loss, three of them about death and the solitude it brings, make up “The Blue Hour,” a well-turned, melancholy item set on and around the Los Angeles River. Largely dialogue-free, the pic shuns histrionics, instead generating its gathering emotional force via carefully crafted images and sharp editing, though it fails to reap the potential benefits of the decision to tie its yarns together. “Hour” reps a strong calling card for debutante Eric Nazarian, and could find an extended afterlife on the fest circuit.
In the pic’s most upbeat strand, ironically named Happy (Emily Rios) is a Mexican kid who escapes her parents’ domestic bickering by spray-painting graffiti on the banks of the river to the accompaniment of headphone hip-hop. A homeless man (Paul Dillon) — a one-time astronomy professor whose acquaintance she briefly makes — is killed by a hit and run driver.
The second, emotionally richer, story focuses on a camera repairman, bear-like but tender Armenian Avo (Yorick Van Wageningen), trying to come to terms with the death of his 4-year-old daughter Heidi (Sophie Malki). Communication between Avo and traumatized wife Allegra (“Charmed” star Alyssa Milano) has broken down. Much of this story is told in flashback, giving it a narrative depth absent from the other sections.
In the third, weakest section, blues street musician Ridley (Clarence Williams III) cares for his ailing mother and is haunted by the singing coming from another room in the old hotel where he lives. Fourth yarn takes us through the routine of kindly old Humphrey (Derrick O’Connor) as he prepares for his daily lunch by his wife’s grave.
The characters are briefly aware of one another across stories, but to little discernible dramatic consequence. So tenuous are the connections between them that the stories could have been kept apart with no real loss of substance. In a film dealing so explicitly with feelings, the script could have shed a section and found time to bring out the emotional nuances of the remaining interactions more strongly.
Pic is best seen as a linked series of quiet, telling moments — Ridley playing the guitar at his dying mother’s bedside, Yorick looking across the river at Happy’s graffiti of a sad clown, Happy looking up through the dead prof’s telescope.
Dialogue does good work when it comes. Much of the pic shows characters walking through the streets alone, which visually starts to pall by the Ridley section.
All perfs are suitably muted, as is the minimalist score. Strikingly composed images of the river as it winds through the city thankfully do not seem to be aiming for symbolism. Pic features a cameo by ’60s Brit singer Eric Burdon, banging out the blues in a local bar.