For Now (2019)
For Now can certainly claim to be a true indie. It was funded by Kickstarter and is near-documentary in both style and substance – the script is largely improvised, though the plot is not, and plays off the real life relationships between the four principles. The result is an occasionally uneven but diverting road-trip film about a group of twenty-somethings traveling up the California coast and navigating their problematic relationships along the way.
For Now occupies an odd position between Duplassian mumblecore and near-documentary, and the overlap between real life and fiction is one of the most intriguing things about it. The film is a seven-day road trip undertaken by Hannah (Hannah Barlow), her boyfriend Kane (Kane Senes), their friend Katherine (Katherine Du Bois), and Hannah’s brother Connor (Connor Barlow), as they travel up the California coast to take Connor to an audition at the San Francisco Ballet Company. There’s tension in the car, as Hannah and Kane deal with a rough patch in their relationship and their careers, complicated by Katherine, who has been staying on their couch, and the conflict-laden relationship between Hannah and Connor, their past, and the deaths of their parents.
There are really two ways that a film like this can go: self-serious pretension, and an interesting exhumation of relationships. For the most part, For Now is in the second category, thanks largely to the warmly ironic leads and the fact that the conversations play out like real conversations, with arguments, tangents, diversions, underlying animosity, and sibling rivalry bubbling to the surface. There’s very little self-aware quirkiness here, and what there is is tempered by naturalistic shifts in dialogue and mis-en-scene. The leads are human—at times annoying and egotistical, at others revealing layers of character and motivation often missing in self-styled indie comedies. The film doesn’t promise solutions for grief, co-dependence, or the occasionally drifting sensibilities of Millennials—the characters are muddling their way through as best they can, attempting to make art and to form connections to their families, friends, and significant others.
For Now plays like early Duplass Brothers (and it’s no wonder, as Barlow and Senes were inspired to make it by a Mark Duplass speech at SXSW), which will endear it to some while repelling others. There’s no doubt that this film sits comfortably in the mumblecore niche, though it doesn’t go as far into the realms of humorous discomfort as some films in the genre. The unmoored nature of the characters, and the desire to find some meaning in a post-post-modern landscape, can come off as cloying, but For Now never edges into the “privileged yet incompetent” territory of some indie filmmaking. The central relationship is really Hannah and Connor as they navigate their sometimes difficult dynamic and the way that each deals with their parents’ loss. The pair have the intimacy of siblings close in age, their own private language and way of relating to each other, which both Katherine and Kane have difficulty understanding or penetrating. But the conflicts, when they come, are just as intense as the moments of joy, and it is to the film’s credit that it neither dwells on nor shies away from the more uncomfortable moments.
There’s a tendency to require small films to revolutionize genres or concepts in order to be deemed worthy of attention, but we should also recognize when a film attempts a project or an experiment and does it well. There’s something surprising that For Now, beyond its cinematic competency, is hardly revolutionary yet is refreshing and enjoyable nonetheless.
For Now is available to stream on VOD, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu.