Two of the finest indies I’ve seen this year are remarkably similar–particularly in regards to their length (clocking in around an hour) and content. In my ideal world, these pictures would be playing on a double bill in art house theaters across America. Both films center on young couples and the impact that child-rearing has on their relationships. They also both include supporting roles for prolific indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg and his real-life son, Jude.
Todd Looby’s “Be Good” follows an independent filmmaker, Paul (Thomas J. Madden), as he attempts to undergo his usual work routine at home with the addition of his new baby girl, Pearl. Meanwhile, his wife, Mary (Amy Seimetz), returns to work but has difficulty being away from her child all week. The tensions and obstacles that Paul and Mary face will be instantly familiar to any couple struggling to make a living artistically while raising a family. Looby captures some exquisite moments between the actors and the baby that feel entirely genuine. Madden previously collaborated with Looby in 2009’s “Lefty,” and proves again to have a magnetic screen presence.
Swanberg’s “Marriage Material” opens with a young, unmarried, childless couple (played by Caroline White and Kentucker Audley) agreeing to babysit their friend’s baby for an evening. The experience intensifies White’s eagerness to have a child, but Audley (like Paul in “Be Good”) is a workaholic who views parenthood as a major inconvenience. In a wonderful 15-minute shot, Swanberg’s camera rests on the couple as they finally reveal the desires and frustrations that they’ve kept bottled up during much of their seemingly tranquil relationship. This is a great movie, one of Swanberg’s very best.
As I say on my podcast, make sure to “keep a lookout” for these two terrific titles…