Introspective dramas about white, heterosexual couples are a dime a dozen, but Pink Wall manages to provide some compelling perspective on romantic tribulations. It contains the raw fallout of Blue Valentine and the mumblecore musings of a Joe Swanberg film. The film is a mosaic of integral moments in a couple’s relationship presented non-chronologically starring Tatiana Maslany and Jay Duplass. This fractured temporality (marked by the absence or presence of Duplass’ beard and time cards) allows Cullen to draw fascinating parallels and point out diminutive incongruities in their relationship over time, giving the audience a distinct sense of what made their relationship fall apart. With each time jump, the screen dimensions change: the first year in 4:3 to evoke the nostalgic past of home video, and the later sections in a wider 16:9 to suggest their deepened knowledge of one another. The film opens with a heated argument between the couple after Jenna’s brother insinuated that Leon is a feeble, insecure man. It becomes clear from this opening scene that Cullen’s film will be a frank interrogation of gender roles. Cullen’s vignettes pulsate with a fervid energy in their snappy dialogue and engaging set ups, one particular standout being a dinner debate about assumptions in straight relationships.
Careers and children—these are the fundamental matters that shape the fate of all couples, and Leon and Jenny are no exception. Leon is a former DJ who is content to do very little with his life but love and be loved. However, he feels his idleness and lethargy are holding Jenna back, who at his encouraging has become a successful film producer. Jenna wants to “do shit” with her life, namely her work, and is frustrated by Leon’s faltering ambition. Leon would prefer to settle down and start a family, while the passionate Jenna is dead-set on ascending in her career. Their differing aspirations are a refreshing twist of gender expectations. There is a profound sense of melancholy to Jenna and Leon’s incompatibility; despite their deep bond and loving camaraderie, their life trajectories simply do not align. There is no way for them to go on. This discordance registers during intense psychological and sexual disputes.
Duplass deftly captures Leon’s indolence and, at times, churlishness, but Maslany outshines him in her role as a fiery go-getter struggling to keep it together. The pair have scintillating chemistry, and this is made apparent in their easygoing improvisational dialogue. Maslany perfectly conveys how Jenna’s great love for Leon continually comes up against what she wants in life, and how this tears her apart. Although Pink Wall treads extremely familiar territory, the film’s acute dialogue, absorbing scenes of millennial dissension, astonishingly authentic performances, and walloping final scene that packs a great emotional punch elevates it from repetitive fatigue. It is a deeply felt debut that powerfully examines what happens when our private hopes collide with even the most steadfast of relationships.
by Caroline Madden
Caroline hails from the home state of her hero, Bruce Springsteen. Her favourite films include Dog Day Afternoon, Raging Bull, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Lord of the Rings. She has an MA degree in Cinema Studies from SCAD and also appears in Fandor, Reverse Shot, Crooked Marquee, and IndieWire. You can follow her on Twitter @crolinss. Order her book Springsteen as Soundtrack here