Films: Finally, Lillian and Dan

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Finally, Lillian and Dan

Finally, Lillian and Dan

USA, 2007, 97 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Comedy, Coming of Age, Romance
Programs: Films in Competition, Contemporary World Cinema, New Directors Showcase
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Mike Gibisser
Producer: Mike Gibisser, Jason Kean
Editor: Mike Gibisser
Screenwriter: Mike Gibisser, Gretchen Akers, Jason Kean
Cinematographer: Mike Gibisser, Susan Turman
Principal Cast: Gretchen Akers, Jason Kean, Lucy Quinn

Hailed by leading film scholar Ray Carney (Cassavetes on Cassavetes), this engaging tale of two desperately isolated people who eventually find each other is told so intimately as to seem whispered in your ear—which it practically is. Unfolding in closely observed facial expressions and gestures, with spare doses of dialogue, Finally, Lillian and Dan explores the namesake characters’ tantalizingly slow progress toward connection.

Living alone with her widowed grandmother, Lillian (Gretchen Akers) is quiet and painfully shy, despite others’ efforts to draw her out of her shell. Though his own social skills are so stunted he can hardly speak, Dan (Jason Kean) hangs out at the grocery store in the hope of someday meeting someone to love. When these two stumble upon each other, they recognize their common, near-paralyzing reticence and move toward forging a bond, albeit at a glacial pace. Just when the quiet seems deafening and the bond impossible, one or the other comes forward in halting sincerity. Incrementally, a delicate relationship is born.

To capture it, director Mike Gibisser has stripped away everything but the camera and the characters before it. In lieu of script rehearsals, Gibisser spent several months working individually with Akers and Kean, building their characters before bringing them together to improvise their interaction. (The leads are in fact credited as cowriters.) With a sharp eye, he frames the would-be couple’s inner struggles tightly to heighten the action, so that the simple touch of Lillian’s hand against Dan’s face carries the charge of lovemaking. Indeed, the film’s grainy veneer and lengthy takes only serve to highlight the natural sweetness of the love story, whereby the viewer’s patience is rewarded with signs that this appealing but meek duo is finally beginning to blossom.

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