Since debuting with 2005’s The Puffy Chair, Mark Duplass has been one of the forefathers of the mumblecore genre. By turning a dearth of budget into impactful personal films, Duplass paved the way for several new filmmakers. After shining on TV’s The League and Togetherness, Duplass is back in the genre he created.
Blue Jay follows an estranged couple who randomly run into each other when visiting their home. They decided to spend the day together, reflecting on both the nostalgia and heartbreak they experienced together. Bolstered by its two strong performances of Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson, Blue Jay gets a lot of emotional mileage from its simplistic premise. Not only is it one of the year’ strongest efforts, but one of the best entries in the mumblecore genre.
Typically, independent films aren’t associated with having a great visual aesthetic but Blue Jay defies that standard. The film is completely in black and white, which has become a popular choice of late. The aesthetic looks gorgeous, with the simple contrast letting simple details shine. More importantly, it serves a purpose from a thematic perspective, capturing the small-town through the characters’ sentimental journey. First-time director Alexandre Lehmann also proves to be a steady hand behind the camera, with the film having a natural flow throughout.
Blue Jay may not have much in story, but its themes have emotional depth. The film deals mostly with regret and our nostalgia from our past, with people viewing their past through their own sentimental lenses. These are fairly worldly concepts, thankfully executed with equal parts warmth and melancholy.
Despite having some success as a writer, this is by and large Mark Duplass’ most assured writing effort. Not only does he flesh out his themes, but makes a fairly engaging narrative from such a simplistic set-up. Subtly placed comments throughout do help in adding layers to these characters, as well as their storied history. Every conversation feels incredibly authentic, often time reminding audiences of the free-flowing conversation of the Before Trilogy.
What propels the film’s most is its star performances. Sarah Paulson continues her breakout year with another standout performance. Paulson’s character is often times very guarded, but still relays a deep sense of pain and confusion. Pairing with her perfectly is Duplass, who on the other hand plays a character who is very emotionally expressive. The two are incredibly strong together, whether it be them goofing off with each other or emotionally reflecting on their past.
Blue Jay utilizes its simplistic concept to the best of its ability, packing equal parts depth and humanity throughout. It’s also another major example of the potential mumblecore films have, as well as the impressive talents of its stars.