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D: Rebecca Addelman / 89m

Cast: Eve Hewson, Avan Jogia, Hamish Linklater, Andie MacDowell, Grace Glowicki, Brooks Gray, Liza Lapira, Daniela Barbosa

In Rebecca Addelman’s debut feature, we first meet Franny (Hewson) and Dan (Jogia) minutes after they’ve gotten married. It hasn’t been a big, arranged wedding, just a spur of the moment, impetuous decision made by a couple who are so in love they just couldn’t wait any longer, and rushed to the nearest courthouse. Naturally, Franny’s mother, Joanne (MacDowell), is hugely disappointed, especially as neither of them has a job, and are living in Franny’s tiny apartment. But when Dan lands a job housesitting for six months for actress Hailey Turner (Barbosa), and Franny in turn lands a job as a writer at a TV production company, their relationship begins to feel the strain. As they see less and less of each other, and become disenchanted with married life, Franny finds herself becoming increasingly attracted to co-worker Noah (Linklater), while Dan finds a notebook of Hailey’s writings and becomes obsessed with the image he builds up of her. Further complications ensue, complications that put Franny and Dan in the uncomfortable position of having to decide if being married is the right thing for both of them…

In many romantic movies, the wedding is the culmination of a story that has seen its erstwhile couple work through various problems and overcome various stumbling blocks on their way to the altar. In Paper Year, this is the launchpad for a different kind of story: what happens once that culmination is over with, and the couple have to actually begin the rest of their lives together. But while the idea is a good one, the movie itself isn’t quite as successful at making that idea work. Part of the problem lies in being introduced to Franny and Dan at their happiest, and without ever learning what brought them together in the first place. As the movie progresses, their first flush of marital bliss gives way to doubt and disillusionment, and as their characters develop, we can’t help but wonder how or why they became a couple in the first place. They don’t really have much in common, and when they’re apart it’s almost as if they’re behaving in ignorance of the other. Franny’s attraction to Noah causes her to make a number of rash decisions, while Dan retreats into a fantasy world where Hailey is his soulmate and not Franny.

Matters are further undermined by the disparity in the characters’ development, particularly in relation to Dan. He’s an actor who hasn’t had a job in two years and doesn’t appear to have any real ambition in that direction, and one of the few things we learn about him is that, left to his own devices, he’s a chronic masturbator. His obsession with Hailey feels forced, as if Addelman needed a similar character arc for Dan to match Franny’s attraction to Noah. But her script isn’t so tightly constructed that any of these decisions and behaviours appear organic or entirely credible. By the end, with their marriage in freefall and potentially doomed, the viewer is unlikely to care if their relationship survives or not. The tone of the movie is uneven as well, with scenes displaying mordaunt humour one moment and emotional drama the next, and never fitting the two together. The perfomances suffer as a result of the script’s uncertainty, with Hewson and Jogia having to play selfish and unsympathetic with very little room for anything else. Linklater is the only other actor given any prominence, but his role is so generic to indie dramas that he can’t do anything with it either, and Addelman, as with so much of her script, doesn’t have anything original for him to do.

Rating: 5/10 – a stab at being a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at the demands of early married life, things fall apart too quickly and too easily to make any appreciable impact; as a drama, Paper Year relies on too many well-worn, stock indie movie set ups – yes, there’s a disastrous dinner party – to offer potential viewers something new or unexpected.

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