A good movie that fails to live up to the beautiful performances by its leads, Joey Klein’s The Other Half starring Tatiana Maslany (of Orphan Black fame) and Tom Cullen is a solid if not great film that hits limited theaters and VOD this week.
Nickie (Cullen) is a grieving young man who has yet to work through a traumatic experience from his past. One day he meets Emily (Maslany) and is instantly attracted to her and the two grow close and start to fall in love before Emily’s bipolar disorder causes a break in their relationship. The film telegraphs the rise and falls of their romance and how trauma, in all its forms, can be a master emotional manipulator. Their are side-plots such as Nickie’s contentious relationship with his parents (tense due to the event that lead to his current volatile disposition) and Emily’s want to make it as an artist and her similarly emotionally fraught relationship with her father who doesn’t believe she’s healthy enough to live on her own but the real pull of the film is the twos romance, and Klein knows this.
Relying solely on the strongest aspect of the film (the chemistry between real life couple Maslany and Cullen) isn’t a foolish decision but there’s room to wonder what might’ve been with the film had Klein had written these characters and the world they lived in outside the romance with as much depth. However, perhaps that is the point, to showcase just how all consuming love can be especially when the world around you seems to be slowly crumbling apart.
Shot simply but beautifully, capturing the fervor and frenzy of Nickie and Emily’s passion without ever feeling the need to push an over stylized vision on the audience, the film captures the characters shared mentalities where the world is brighter in the earlier moments and grayer as events grow increasingly stressful. Emily’s vibrant outfits, her red bandannas and yellow tops seem to pop more when Nickie first meets her, totally and immediately entranced by her daring. It’s a small, delicate move on the films behalf and one that aids in building this world.
The script hits some redundancies as we begin to feel as if we’ve already experienced some of the multiple snags the couple finds them in and it’s a catch that would be more damning if it weren’t for the expert work the two leads put in as these beautifully broken characters.
Maslany has already demonstrated on more than one occasion the tremendous talent she possesses as the leading character(s) on BBC’s Orphan Black and here she gets to funnel all of that energy that goes into playing anywhere from five and up characters at once into one character. Her performance is laced with a sense of untapped energy as she desperately tries to reign in her emotions and live a life that’s steady but exciting.
As good as Maslany is (and she truly is excellent) it’s Cullen who steals the film, delivering a vulnerable yet guarded performance as man who never dealt with the grief that comes with the extreme loss he experienced, building a character who wants to be tough enough to never experience that loss again. When his emotions do get the best of him however, his whole demeanor changes, all hulking shoulders and furrowed brows. It’s a master work that coupled with his chemistry with Maslany hints at the actors promise, already highlighted once in Andrew Haigh’s 2011 film Weekend.
Presenting a wounded couple with a dreary backdrop, The Other Half isn’t the most obvious choice for a weekend viewing pick but the two leads are so strong in their performances that it will be well worth it.