You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Outside In’

A stalled-adolescent manboy returns to his hometown after 20 years in prison.

Lynn Shelton
Edie Falco, Jay Duplass, Kaitlyn Dever, Ben Schwartz, Charles Leggett, Louis Hobson, Alycia Delmore, Pamela Reed, Megan Kimberly Smith, Matt Malloy, Aaron Washington, Eryn Rea, Aaron Blakely, Claudine Nako.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7260048/

Though hewing to the small-scale seriocomedy of her prior big-screen work, Lynn Shelton’s first feature since 2014’s “Laggies” (despite a lot of TV work in between) expands on the modest appeal of those earlier films to deliver a personal best to date. “Outside In” stars co-writer Jay Duplass as an ex-con returning after 20 years’ lockup to his hometown, where the only person he’s really eager to see is his old high school English teacher, played by a luminous Edie Falco.

Their awkward, inappropriate quasi-romance is the crux here, but Shelton and Duplass have etched a number of other character relationships to ultimately poignant effect as well. Critical support and potential awards buzz for the leads could boost “Outside” into above-average theatrical performance for its latter-day Amerindie ilk.

A stupid escapade in which he wound up taking the fall for two pals — one of them younger brother Ted (Ben Schwartz) — sent Chris Connelly (Duplass) into the state pen at age 18, where he stayed for the next two decades. He might well be there still if not for Mrs. Beasley, AKA Carol (Falco), who began by continuing his education long-distance behind bars, then became a determined petitioner for his release. Their communication became his lifeline in more ways than one, to the point where psychological intimacies shared made them interdependent — somewhat alleviating Carol’s interim marital woes, while also raising perhaps unrealistic expectations from Chris as to what their “relationship” might comprise upon his release.

He certainly doesn’t have much else to come back to in the perpetually rainy, economically depressed hamlet of Granite Falls, Wa. His long-ago friends are now neck-deep in adult commitments, which can’t be said for Ted, who seems to have done nothing with his life, and whose party pad is an unfortunate sole housing option for a big brother on parole. Nor are employment options plentiful for a newly released jailbird with no real-world work experience. Chris may simply have been a hapless bystander to a shooting death… but he’s still always going to be the guy who served the sentence for it, and hence must check the “felon” box on job applications.

The palpable thrill he and Carol take in reuniting is soon compromised by their very different roles on the “outside,” where she still must maintain a certain propriety as his former teacher. Then there’s the matter that she’s a wife and mother. Trying to integrate Chris more innocuously into her “family life,” she finds somewhat angsty teen daughter Hildy (Kaitlyn Dever) adopting this new “friend” almost more than is comfortable. Only Hildy recognizes him for what he is: a teen misfit like herself, albeit one whose adolescence stalled when he went behind bars. But there’s no hope of a welcome from gruff husband Tom (Charles Leggett). Indeed, the arrival of keeningly affectionate, open Chris only underlines the extent to which Carol’s marriage has become a loveless obligation beyond salvage.

Not much “happens” here, limited by the characters’ milieu and means. (Our hero often has little to do but wheel around town on his rusty old bicycle.) Yet “Outside In” feels eventful, even somewhat suspenseful, as we worry that being around so many screwups of one sort or another might endanger Chris’ still-fragile freedom. Shelton and Duplass lend every significant character a sense of uncontrived evolution, leading to a finale that is stirring precisely for being so tentative and reserved.

Duplass is perfect as the guileless hero, whose naive “simplicity” after 20 years’ forced absence might be hard to swallow in a less surefooted performance. Falco makes Carol’s kindness and frustration palpable at every moment, turning ordinary emotions into a kind of near-poetical self-exposure. Dever of “Detroit” is also very good in the third major role, with support turns expertly handled.

There’s a muted lyricism to the way DP Nathan M. Miller and Shelton’s other principal collaborators capture the soggy, depressed and somewhat decrepit beauty of the Pacific Northwest setting. Having pop iconoclast Andrew Bird as composer was an inspired choice, as his largely acoustic score adds some playful edges to the overall texture.

Film Review: 'Outside In'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentation), Sept. 8, 2017. Running time: 109 MIN.

Production: A the Orchard release of a Duplass Brothers production. (International sales: ICM, Los Angeles.) Producers: Mel Eslyn, Lacey Leavitt. Executive producers: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass. Co-producer: Jonathan Caso.

Crew: Director: Lynn Shelton. Screenplay: Shelton, Jay Duplass, Camera (color, HD): Nathan M. Miller. Editor: Celia Beasley. Music: Andrew Bird.

With: Edie Falco, Jay Duplass, Kaitlyn Dever, Ben Schwartz, Charles Leggett, Louis Hobson, Alycia Delmore, Pamela Reed, Megan Kimberly Smith, Matt Malloy, Aaron Washington, Eryn Rea, Aaron Blakely, Claudine Nako.

More Film

  • Berlin Awarded 'Tess' Sells to Multiple

    Berlin Awarded 'Tess' Sells to Multiple Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    Berlin-based sales agent Picture Tree Intl. has sold Steven Wouterlood’s coming-of-age film “My Extraordinary Summer with Tess,” which received a Special Mention from the jury of Berlin Film Festival’s Generation KPlus section, to distributors in several territories. Among the buyers are Les Films Du Preau in France, Proview Entertainment in Taiwan, Angel Films in Denmark, [...]

  • China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches

    China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches $557 Million in Second Week

    The winning films from Chinese New Year remained on top of the Chinese box office in their second normal weekend of release. Locally-made sci-fi film “The Wandering Earth” advanced its score to $557 million. “Wandering Earth” earned $88.8 million between Friday and Monday, according to data from Asian film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was [...]

  • Nuno Beato’s ‘My Grandfather’ Part of

    ‘My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons’ Marks Sardinha em Lata’s Animation Build

    Portuguese animator-producer-director Nuno Beato, whose credits include “Emma & Gui,” “Híssis” and the multi-prized “My Life In Your Hands,” will pitch a new project, currently in development, “My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons” at Bordeaux’s upcoming Cartoon Movie, the leading European animated feature forum. Cartoon Movie runs March 5-7. Combining 2D and stop-motion, [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. The major guild [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content