Virtual Screening Room: Fourteen

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2019 • dir Dan Sallitt w/Tallie Medel, Norma Kuhling • 94 min

This wonderfully intimate and brilliantly acted film follows the dissolution of a childhood friendship over the course of a decade. Mara (Medel) is a reserved twenty-something who is working to become a teacher. Jo (Kuhling) is her free-spirited, outgoing childhood friend. Jo has issues keeping a job and is a serial monogamist, jumping from relationship to relationship. She seems troubled but it’s unclear why, even to her – perhaps substance abuse is involved, perhaps she has undiagnosed mental illness, or maybe she just can’t really fully conform to society. As Mara’s life begins to become more stable, she grows distant from Jo but is never completely estranged until a tragic incident severs their friendship forever.

Writer/director Dan Sallitt wisely makes FOURTEEN a subtly subjective affair with Jo rarely if ever seen without the critical but supportive eye of Mara. At first glance, just as it would be in real life, the story seems to be about the dominating Jo but it becomes clear that this is truly Mara’s story. The grounded performances of Medel and Kuhling anchor the film and further serve the sensitive character study at its heart. Sallitt takes an understated approach to the storytelling and what could have been melodramatic or played for laughs in another context is treated with a measured realism that is remarkably engaging.

“A bittersweet breakup movie. It’s rare in cinema to see such a fine-grained portrait of friendship, particularly a spiky female one.”
– Jamie Dunn, Sight & Sound

“A highly affecting portrait of female friendship.”
– David Ehrlich, Indiewire

“A wonderful, subtly devastating film from a voice in American independent cinema that will hopefully become better known.”
– Ian Mantgani, Little White Lies