The title of Brian Pera’s “The Way I See Things” alerts viewers that this is a film that marches to its own drummer, even as it stumbles, falls and dusts itself off from time to time. Largely set in a New Age ashram in the Memphis area, pic quietly observes how a 30-ish gay man tries to recover, in his own peculiar way, from the sudden death of his lover. Adventurous fests looking for rule-breaking films should apply, though distribs will beg off.
Stirred out of his grief-ridden slumber by his friends, Otto (Pera, who is probably wearing too many hats on this project) is dragged into a shrink’s office to talk — which is the last thing he wants to do. Otto has shut down, and the film gives itself the difficult task of tracking a self-enclosed character who almost imperceptibly inches back into life’s flow.
Bearded, with long hair and a visage resembling that of late-era Jim Morrison, Otto decides to join peppy but concerned friend Rob (Jonathan Ashford) on a roadie to Los Angeles. Like a pet that gets off his leash, Otto ends up at a party where a woman (Jeannette Comans) tells him about a peaceful retreat. With his considerably talented cinematographer Ryan Parker, Pera edits the sequence in such a way that it appears that Otto is either dreaming that he’s at the retreat — an ashram, run by wealthy divorcee Doshi (Beverly Doggrell) — or has ended up there without knowing how.
It’s an effective transition, since the place feels so unreal, invitingly bucolic and woodsy, yet so full of black-garbed New Agers spouting spiritualist jargon, that Otto finds it both off-putting and maybe oddly amusing. “The Way I See Things” is at its best during its midsection, in which Otto doesn’t simply try to find his way into this group of former outcasts and suicide cases, but waits to see if it’s even worth it to stick around.
Things are much less effective when ashram resident Pherber (also Ashford) suddenly pops up and seems to resemble Otto’s dead lover, Jody (Ashford, again), who appears in brief flashbacks. This business gets in the way of the ashram mini-drama with Doshi, who turns out to be a control freak with a warm smile.
Pic is finally an anthem for finding one’s way and resisting all groupthink, a message softened by Pera’s laid-back approach. As actor and director, he’s extremely quiet and subdued, sensitive yet almost not there at all. His sheer elusiveness will be an attraction to some, but will more likely put off many viewers.
Real star is Parker’s superb lensing in both black-and-white and color, although the choice of palettes tends to be obvious. Quirky underscore by Harlan T. Bobo is right in line with this saga of self.