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Never before have I seen a film that more closely captures the mindset, emotions, and speech patterns of millennials than Adrian Murray’s Withdrawn. Tall praise, but not undeserved. Working from a 15 page outline and a shot list of around 50 setups, almost all of the dialogue was improvised. Combining Murray’s insistence on static, wide shots and his characters’ general listlessness, on paper Withdrawn seems like one of Jim Jarmusch’s early films. But there are no existential wanderings through strange urban environments or countrysides, no journeys of self-discovery. Murray’s cast of twentysomethings end the film exactly where they began, and therein lies the comedy and the painful insight. For people of my generation, to see this film is to see ourselves. The film is about nothing in particular. It follows a few days in the life of Aaron (Aaron Keogh), a young Canadian living in an apartment he can’t afford who seems almost pathologically incapable of taking responsibility for himself. He awkwardly tries to haggle with his roommate to get out of paying for utilities or food; he struggles to convince his mom to pay his rent while spending literally all day watching porn and get-rich-quick videos on youtube, playing video games, and smoking week. Consider one scene where Aaron giddily announces to his roommate that he found $20 doing laundry. His roommate says that great!—he lost $20 dollars a few days ago. Aaron pauses in his roommate’s door. Are you sure, he asks? Maybe…it’s still in the laundry room? And this is a different $20? More silence, more awkwardness until Aaron goes back to the laundry room and pretends to root around the machines for another $20 that doesn’t exist, knowing full well that his roommate knows that he’s full of crap.
Withdrawn doesn’t really have a plot. There might be a reoccurring storyline wherein Aaron discovers a credit card and tries to figure out ways to defraud the owner, but it plays no more real significance to the film than the neighbor’s cat subplot from Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)—it provides the illusion of narrative structure while in fact freeing the director from those very constraints. Murray is interested in the humor of mental stasis: Aaron could leave his apartment at any time, get a real job, and start a real life. But why bother? He has friends and relatives he can mooch on and Rock Band drum solos to practice.