“Digging for Fire” (opening in additional select cities nationwide Aug. 28) cements Joe Swanberg as one of today’s most compelling, low-key and insightful filmmakers. This marriage drama effectively touches upon some uneasy takes on marriage with lighthearted humor and disarming affability.
In short: The discovery of a bone and a gun send a husband Tim (Jake Johnson) and wife Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) on separate adventures over the course of a weekend. Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Mike Birbiglia, Brie Larson and Sam Elliott co-star. (watch the trailer)
Writer-director Swanson’s latest film is well crafted, naturally textured relationship drama – where the two key players spend the majority of the film apart. “Digging” essentially explores the differing sides of a marriage as a child-free weekend allows a husband and wife indulge some bad ideas. Lee examines where her identity as a mother begins and her role as a mother/wife ends, while Tim shirks his adult responsibilities while obsessively digging for clues to the unearthed gun and bone.
But “Digging” works because it allows Tim and Lee to explore the uncomfortable truth of their disappointments. They surround themselves with uninhibited and unrestrained adults while they separately flirt with their unfulfilled yearnings and longings. Swanson smartly establishes the mundane trappings of the married parents (one of whom is reading a self-help book on attaining a passionate marriage) then sets Tim and Lee off on their own storylines that allow them to marinate in their own underlying discontent.
“Digging” admittedly explores some uncomfortable territory — but Tim and Lee simply voice some timeless thoughts men and women have had concerning parenthood and marriage. Their plights are absolutely elemental and accessible. Lee lets slip a quiet resentment of Tim’s lack of “stepping up” to adult responsibilities while Tim resists the realization of aging by wearing clothes far too cool for him and hosting a drug-fueled pool party with some rough-around-the-edges old friends. The beauty of “Digging” is its utter lack of melodrama – this is a nuanced relationship drama that is part mystery, mid-life crisis and existential dilemma.
This film exposes Tim and Lee’s deeply personal feelings about their marriage – but “Digging” doesn’t force them to yell-it-out in some sort of forced concerto of blunt honesty. This story focuses on Tim and Lee’s respective quiet angst and desperation.
Final verdict: “Digging for Fire” represents a new high point in Swanson’s career as a quietly entrancing indie drama.
“Digging for Fire” expands to select cities nationwide Aug. 28. This indie drama is rated R for language including some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity.