This Closeness

I think I’m too old to fully “get” This Closeness, and that’s kind of what I like about it. The movie deals with contemporary fads like ASMR, which have no meaning in my life. Its characters are people I have nothing in common with and can’t relate to. The tone is full of Gen Z angst, which this Gen Xer doesn’t quite identify with. And yet, I became absorbed in the movie because it was almost like studying an alien culture. The story’s inhabitants may not resemble me, but they absolutely taught me a few things about the concerns of today’s hip twentysomethings.

Tessa (Kit Zauhar, who also wrote and directed) is an ASMR YouTuber who comes to Philadelphia to accompany her boyfriend Ben (Zane Pais) to his high school reunion. They stay at an Airbnb, where awkward host Adam (Ian Edlund) mostly stays in his room, obsessively gaming. Tessa is inclined to be kind to Adam; Ben less so. Then Ben brings home former classmate/self-described “slut” Lizzie (Jessie Pinnick) and suddenly buried tensions emerge, leading to an unspoken battle for dominance within the suite.

The four players in This Closeness are all unhappy for various reasons. We come to understand that Tessa isn’t sure Ben is ready to move past his endless high school nostalgia to embrace a future in adulthood. That uncertainty draws her to the lonely Adam, which spurs the jealousy of Ben, and so on. A little of this comes out via the natural-sounding dialogue. More of it is visible in the actions, as when Tessa connects with Adam by showing him the effect of ASMR. The film doesn’t draw any big conclusions. Instead, it subtly suggests people are constantly morphing and evolving, meaning that what makes you happy today won’t necessarily make you happy tomorrow.

Is that a generational thing? How could it not be when members of Gen Z and the Millennials have grown up in a world rife with ongoing dramatic change of the environmental, technological, political, and social types? This Closeness made me think about how folks thirty years my junior might perceive the stuff that my generation wrought. The movie does this through quiet, compassionate observance of these characters and by putting their ennui under a microscope. The world has moved faster for them than it did for us, understandably leading to an intermittent feeling of disorientation.

Zauhar and Pais are very good as the central couple, believably conveying the cracks underneath the seemingly happy surface. Edlund nicely avoids the “loner” cliches to give Adam depth, and Pinnick hits just the right note to make Lizzie a firecracker tossed into the mix. The single-location setting never becomes tiresome because the under-the-surface tensions are continually intriguing. This Closeness will probably play best to its target demographic. The film might also be eye-opening to viewers not in that demographic.

out of four

This Closeness is unrated, but contains adult language and sexual content/nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan