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Les Choristes

The French confection Les Choristes is now available on a skimpy, movie-only DVD —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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Indie filmmaker Nathan Silver cast his mother in an ensemble drama set at a rural home for girls. It must have been a healthy childhood because the result is a frank, occasionally painful, but always loving story.

Home for Girls

Dahlbom and Dancyger struggle against emotions and hormones
Dahlbom and Dancyger struggle against emotions and hormones

Robbie (David Dahlbom), a man of about 30, arrives at his aunt Carla’s place to help out around the house. We soon learn that he may be separating from his wife and he needs a place to be away from his wife to clear his head. Carla’s big, rustic house is in rural New York state and she’s happy to have a young man around to fix things.

Carla’s house is also Gottlieb’s Home for Girls. Carla (Cindy Silver, the director’s mother) takes in up to five pregnant young women and helps them with their pregnancies, their educations, their lives.

The first of the five we see is Brandi (Adinah Dancyger), with red hair, fair skin, and a big belly. She is the only one of the five with a boyfriend still in the picture. Chase (a pierced Casey Drogin) still loves her, but may not yet be able to provide for the whole family.

Each of the young women has a story, and through scenes of camaraderie in the kitchen and evening conversation in the living room, we get to know them all.

Hormones

Hormones being hormones, many of the women take a shine to Robbie, Jean (Tallie Medel) in particular, hair dyed blue. After her 18th birthday party she invites herself down into the basement where Robbie sleeps, thinking he must surely have developed a crush by now.

He may have, but not with Jean — with Brandi.

No point in saying too much more about the plot. Uncertain Terms isn’t necessarily about what happens, so much as about the emotions of the people it happens to.

The emotions are not melodramatic. Uncertain Terms is careful to introduce you to everybody and their situation before letting the heavy stuff land. And when it does — you can even see it happening in slow motion — you really feel for the people living these lives, making decisions that might be mistakes. You feel the tug of life in different directions even though most of us can only go in one.

When Uncertain Terms ended I felt it was just getting started. I could have watched more.

Uncertain Terms might be a tough recommendation for people who ordinarily choose Interstellar or Big Hero 6; this film moves slow and doesn’t show off any budget. What it offers instead is drama — very good characters and performances, and an original idea and script.