3.5 stars (out of 5)
We're Glad You're Here is a new and rather notable entry in the rapidly growing "mumblecore" movement which consists of Altman-esque character studies, told through overheard conversations (hence the genre's name).
The film makes the viewer a fly on the wall in the world of a rudderless twenty-something as she sleepwalks through a quarter-life crisis. Anxious and defeated after her dreams of an advertising career in New York are dashed, Catherine (Lindsay Burdge) moves back home to pastoral Bloomington, Indiana.
With its history-infused buildings and grassy knolls, Bloomington is an idyllic college town. Writer-director Hannah Fidell's depiction of academics is less romantic. A particularly provocative scene finds Catherine in an apartment with other students, all of whom reek of pomposity. As they smugly discuss societal issues without really listening to one another, the film emerges as a critical look at the Facebook generation, which uses communication more for narcissistic purposes than to truly connect with other people.
Fidell expresses her critical feelings about academia and America's youth not only through Catherine, but through the film's visual style as well. The scholarly gathering places are cold, sterile and starkly lit whereas the rural world around them is warm, organic and inviting. The affection in this portrait of Bloomington undoubtedly stems from Fidell's sentimental perceptions toward the city. (She is only four years removed from Indiana University.)
Gazing with misty eyes at the calm scenery around her, Catherine is clearly a reflection of Fidell. Lindsay Burdge shines in the role, handling the film's cinema verite style with considerable grace and ease, making each moment feel natural and authentic. Ben Dickinson is equally engaging as Michael, a bohemian drifter as free in spirit as Catherine aspires to be. Her yearning for his simple life is tangible and poignant.
We're Glad You're Here is captivating in its familiarity and ultra-realistic depiction of life as a twenty-something. Viewers that age will feel as though they are eavesdropping on peers while older audience members will get the sense that they are looking back on old memories - images of innocence long lost.
The film is an exercise in voyeurism, so if you are in the mood to watch an experiment, you will be swept away by its you-are-there immediacy. If you're not up for the challenge of watching a film in which events unfold as slowly and clumsily as they do in real life, it may take you a while to warm up to this one. Either way, you will be rewarded, because in the end, this is a universally appealing film.
It effectively captures feelings of desperation, the pressure to acquire a stable career, the excitement and fear of growing up and entering the real world - all the joys and pains of early adulthood.
In short, We're Glad You're Here is one of the Indy Film Fest's best offerings. It is playing Wednesday, July 20 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, July 23 at 4:30 p.m. in the IMA's Toby Theatre. It screens alongside Type A, a short film about artists Adam Ames and Andrew Bordwin and their project for the IMA's 100 Acres Art & Nature Park.