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Scott Boswell’s debut feature, “The Stranger in Us,” is a modest but affecting drama about a small-town guy whose move to San Francisco is complicated, notably by two very problematic relationships. Engrossing by leisurely degrees, pic captures youthful uncertainty heightened by factors ranging from unexpected spousal abuse to the challenge of simply surviving in an extremely expensive city. Beyond gay fest travel, DVD exposure is signaled.

Portraying roughly a year’s span in non-chronologically ordered scenes, Boswell’s screenplay focuses on Anthony (Raphael Barker, “Shortbus”), a mid-20s transplant from Virginia. An aspiring poet, he’s come to San Francisco to live with the somewhat older Stephen (Scott Cox), whom he met back East. But we quickly grasp that just months later, Anthony moved into his own apartment. Cause for that shift is gradually revealed, as is Stephen’s volatile personality. Now on his own in a much worse neighborhood, Anthony finds an unlikely confidant in Gavin (Adam Perez), homeless runaway and sometime hustler. Gavin is protective of our emotionally fragile protag and in some respects mature for his age, yet also impulsive and irresponsible. Perfs are very good, assembly crisp if smallscreen-suited.

The Stranger in Us

  • Production: A Paperback Films production. Produced by Cheryl Simas Valenzuela. Executive producer, Scott Boswell. Directed, written by Scott Boswell.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Spenser Nottage, Laura Valladao; editor, Matt Hale; music, Margrit Eichler. Reviewed at Frameline (U.S. Features), San Francisco, June 25, 2010. Running time: 107 MIN.
  • With: With: Raphael Barker, Scott Cox, Adam Perez, Goldie Chan, David Scott Keller, Veronica Klaus, Brian Levy, Luis Quiroz, Alex Rodriguez, Kelly Sanchez, Jesse Schoem, Marc Scruggs, Jeffrey Weissman.
  • Music By: