Now, Forager doesn't go a lot of new places. Yes, as the title hints, it's about a couple who forages for wild mushrooms as a means of meager support, and I can't recall seeing any films about mushroom hunters in the past (no, I did not see Shrooms, but I get the impression it's about something else entirely). But, much like the characters in their film, directors Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin seem intent on returning to familiar patches of fertile ground; in the case of the filmmakers, it's earth that's been well plowed by similarly contemplative indie directors like Kelly Reichardt, Carlos Reygadas, Pedro González-Rubio, and others working within what A.O. Scott has termed the neo-neo realism movement.
Lucien (Cortlund) and Regina (Tiffany Esteb) are moving in different directions in their marriage. She's begun to tire of the small rewards that mushroom hunting brings them and is considering taking on a regular job in a small restaurant. Meanwhile, Lucien stubbornly deflects Regina's dissatisfaction, hatching plans to risk what little stability they enjoy on a road trip to forage in unknown territories. Cortlund and Halperin avoid hinging the film on the drama between the characters, choosing instead to display the couple's incompatibility through slow observation rather than with outward displays of their anger over it. Now, Forager allows us to see these characters together and alone, offering up access to both private and shared moments.
The long periods of time spent solely with Lucien or Regina yield a sense that the problems they have together are present in their individual struggles outside the relationship. Lucien, it seems, just doesn't play well with others, while Regina's flexibility only goes so far when working an out-of-state cooking gig. In both cases, these divergences from what appears to be the main story thread--the slow dissolution of their relationship--enrich our understanding of what's not expressed through words. For a film with only a few small degrees of plot development, it's surprisingly effective at wielding those micro-shifts in the dynamic between the characters, their environment, and each other.
In many ways, Now, Forager unfolds as a paint-by-numbers, quiet indie meditation on the reasons why some relationships just don't pan out. As it borrows liberally from a wealth of contemporary, low budget influences, many viewers won't be able to shake the feeling that they've seen multiple versions of this film before, but an overfamiliarity with the patterns and modes at play here won't spoil the best parts of an earnest little film that steers clear of being overwhelmed by the indie cliches it so wholeheartedly embraces. It's a worthy, if not entirely original, view.
Now, Forager begins its run at Living Room Theaters on Friday, December 28th. More info available here.
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