You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Off Hours

A melancholy tone poem to the small industrial towns of the Northwest.

With: Amy Seimetz, Tony Doupe, Ross Partridge, Scoot McNairy, Gergana Mellin, Lynn Shelton, Bret Roberts, Madeline Elizabeth.

Centering on an all-night truckstop diner, “The Off Hours,” Megan Griffiths’ debut feature, is a melancholy tone poem to the small industrial towns of the Northwest. As a late-shift waitress, Amy Seimetz stares pensively into space while other denizens of the night circle her like moths around a flickering bulb. Low-budget indie’s atmospheric milieu, brushed with touches of Edward Hopper, might have been more impressive if anchored by a story, however slight, that moved with less tortoise-like deliberation. “Hours” will likely divide auds between those who find it deeply moving and those who consider it merely pretentious.

Few would dispute, though, that the film is all of a piece in evoking the feel of a whistle-stop outpost in the lonely hours before dawn. Ace indie lenser Benjamin Kasulke proves as sensitive to the shifting texture of the desolate landscape, with its extensive palette of blacks and grays, as helmer Griffiths is to every nuance of her dead-end characters’ mood swings.

Francine (Seimetz), a product of foster homes, has been slinging hash at the diner for a dozen years. She lives with her best friend and foster brother, Corey (Scoot McNairy), who plays in a band at the nearby bar and whose more-than-brotherly affection she cannot reciprocate; instead, she sleeps semi-regularly with his bandmate Ty (Bret Roberts) and grabs quickies in the diner’s restroom on slow nights. Yet this meaningless repetition affords no sense of belonging — everyone seems to live in motels, transients in their very passivity.

The diner also serves as lodestar for other characters stranded in a place where sex and booze rank as the only games in town. Diner owner Stu (Tony Doupe) opts for the latter, his alcoholism having cost him his wife (Lynn Shelton) and teenage daughter (Madeline Elizabeth), whose portrait he methodically paints while steadily drinking himself into insensibility. Meanwhile, the diner’s other waitress, Jelena (Gergana Mellin), an acerbic Serbian emigree with an estranged grown son, joylessly has sex with any trucker who blows through.

The arrival of Oliver (Ross Partridge), a different kind of trucker who brings with him a faint whiff of a wider existence, awakens Francine from her doleful torpor. They slowly approach each other, sharing walks and talks and dreams, but he is married with kids, the camera following him home on several occasions.

The strong ensemble cast memorably fleshes out Griffiths’ vulnerable castaways, lending them presence and weight, but never enough to overcome the pic’s glacial slowness. In a sense, “The Off Hours” provides a reverse angle for a road movie, focusing not on the people passing through but on those who stay behind. Indeed, whenever one character moves away from another, Griffiths keeps the camera bracketed on the person left in the frame, adding to the atmosphere of stasis and stagnation that hangs over the film.

The Off Hours

Production: An Off Hours Film production. Produced by Mischa Jakupcak, Lacey Leavitt, Joy Saez. Executive producers, Garr Godfrey, Ed Kim, Chris Purkiss, Aron Michael Thompson, Lincoln Uyeda. Co-producers, Andrew Finnigan, Brooke Finnigan. Directed, written, edited by Megan Griffiths.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Benjamin Kasulke; music, Joshua Morrison, Jeramy Koepping; production designer, Ben Blankenship; costume designer, Rebecca Luke; sound, Vinny Smith. Reviewed at Soho House, New York, Jan. 10, 2011. (In Sundance Film Festival -- Next.) Running time: 94 MIN.

Cast: With: Amy Seimetz, Tony Doupe, Ross Partridge, Scoot McNairy, Gergana Mellin, Lynn Shelton, Bret Roberts, Madeline Elizabeth.

More Scene

  • Andy CohenThe Shops and Restaurants at

    Andy Cohen to Receive Vito Russo Award at GLAAD Media Awards

    Mazel, Andy Cohen! Bravo’s late-night talk show host is set to receive the Vito Russo Award at the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards on May 4 in New York City. Sarah Jessica Parker will present him with the award, which is named in honor of GLAAD founder Vito Russo. The annual award goes to openly [...]

  • Variety TV Summit Europe

    Variety TV Summit Europe Coming to London on June 13

    Variety’s TV Summit Europe will coincide with London Tech Week this year, returning to the city on June 13. The international conference will be held at the Royal Lancaster and is co-produced by global events company Informa’s KNect365 division, the world’s largest business-to-business organizer. The one-day summit will focus on the intersection of content and [...]

  • David Furnish, Bryce Dallas Howard, Taron

    'Rocketman': Paramount Previews Footage of Elton John Biopic

    “Rocketman” is ready for lift off. Paramount Pictures threw a cocktail party Monday night to preview 15 minutes of the upcoming Elton John biopic, set for release on May 31, at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the legendary rock club where John made his U.S. debut nearly 50 years ago. The footage featured pieces of [...]

  • The CalArts REDCAT Gala 2019 Honoring

    Pixar's Pete Docter Honored at CalArts REDCAT Gala

    Pixar’s Pete Docter reminisced about his days as a student at CalArts on Saturday night at the 2019 CalArts REDCAT Gala, where he received the Distinguished Alumni Award. For the wide-eyed boy from Minnesota, where life was more routine, attending CalArts “was a free-for-all. It was eye-opening in a lot of ways,” he recalled. “But [...]

  • Sasha Pieterse, Eli Brown, Sydney Park

    'Pretty Little Liars' Spinoff Unexpectedly Coincides With College Admissions Scandal

    It was a case of art imitating life at Saturday night’s Hollywood premiere of “The Perfectionists” — Freeform’s “Pretty Little Liars” spinoff about a scandal involving college students striving for excellence by any means necessary. The TV show’s debut was coincidently preceded by a real-life college scandal involving Hollywood celebrities who allegedly didn’t let a [...]

  • Keira Knightley'The Aftermath' film screening, Arrivals,

    Keira Knightley Talks 'Aftermath,' Alexander Skarsgård and Another Itchy Wardrobe

    The reigning queen of period pieces, Keira Knightley, knows a thing or two about historical clothing. “Lining. Lining is always important,” the Oscar-nominated actress playfully advised on Wednesday at the premiere of her post-WWII drama “Aftermath.” “If you get a lot of itchy stuff always put lining in it. I have learned that from having [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content