More to grow on

FRAMELINE 2013: Short takes and highlights from Frameline37

Young and Wild

Pit Stop (Yen Tan, US) One of the very best narrative features at Sundance this year, Yen Tan's drama nonetheless completely flew under the radar of media attention. It's a beautifully low-key tale of two 40-ish gay men in a Texas small town. Neither are closeted, but they aren't exactly fulfilled, either, both being in awkward domestic situations. Gabe (Bill Heck) is still living with angry ex-wife Shannon (Amy Seimetz) for the sake of their six year-old daughter. Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) still shares his apartment with younger, slackerish ex-BF Luis (Alfredo Maduro), who keeps dragging his feet about actually moving out. Everyone is dissatisfied, but not quite willing to risk making a leap into unfamiliar territory. We know Gabe and Ernesto are fated to meet, yet it's Tan's terrifically nuanced portrayal of the relationships they must exit first that dominates almost the entire feature. Pit Stop is the kind of slow burner that sneaks up on you, surprising with the force of well-earned climactic joy after so much concise observation of credibly ordinary, troubled lives. Fri/21, 4pm, Castro; June 27, 7pm, Elmwood. (Dennis Harvey)

Free Fall (Stephan Lacant, Germany) A young German police cadet, Marc (Hanno Koffler), finds himself disturbingly drawn to a fellow cadet, Kay (Max Riemelt), during a weekend of training exercises — a regimen that proves to be not quite enough of an outlet to diffuse the erotic tension between them. Back home, though, are Marc's very pregnant girlfriend, Bettina (Katharina Schüttler), and a circle of friends and family who expect him to continue along his current track of shacking up, forming a family, and demonstrating his loyalty to the macho brotherhood of his colleagues on the force. When Kay transfers into the department, his presence exerts a pressure on Marc that threatens to derail him. Director Stephan Lacant's film, co-written with Karsten Dahlem, movingly depicts the painful breakdown of a man ruled by impulses he's unable to face up to, and the consequences that come of remaining paralyzed in an impossible state. Fri/21, 6:30pm, Castro; Mon/24, 9:30pm, Elmwood. (Lynn Rapoport)

C.O.G. (Kyle Patrick Alvarez, US) The first feature adapted from David Sedaris' writing, Kyle Patrick Alvarez's film captures his acerbic autobiographical comedy while eventually revealing the misfit pain hidden behind that wit. Tightly wound David (Jonathan Groff), on the run from problematic family relations and his sexual identity, takes the bus from East Coast grad school to rural Oregon — his uninhibited fellow passengers providing the first of many mortifications here en route. Having decided that seasonal work as an apple picker will somehow be liberating, he's viewed with suspicion by mostly Mexican co-workers and his crabby boss (Dean Stockwell). More fateful kinda-sorta friendships are forged with a sexy forklift operator (Corey Stoll) and a born-again war vet (Denis O'Hare). Under the latter's volatile tutelage, David briefly becomes a C.O.G. — meaning "child of God." Balancing the caustic, absurd, and bittersweet, gradually making us care about an amusingly dislikable, prickly protagonist, this is a refreshingly offbeat narrative that pulls off a lot of tricky, ambivalent mood shifts. Sat/22, 9:15pm, Castro. (Harvey)

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