The Inside Out Film Festival is back for its 25th year in 2015, and one movie that got to join in the festivities was “That’s Not Us”. Released in 2015, it had its world premiere on May 23 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Director and co-writer William C. Sullivan and actors/producers Mark Berger and Sarah Wharton were in attendance to host a Q&A session after.
The movie focuses on three couples, Jackie (Nicole Pursell) and Alex (Wharton), Liz (Elizabeth Gray) and Dougie (Tommy Nelms), and Spencer (David Rysdahl) and James (Berger), and their end-of-summer weekend away on an island. What starts off as lighthearted boozy fun quickly de-escalates into fractured surfaces for each of the three couples: Jackie and Alex are in the throes of a really bad case of lesbian bed death, Liz and Dougie struggle to accept their need to help and be helped, and Spencer and James can’t say aloud that they’ll soon part ways on account of one’s future opportunities.
What “That’s Not Us” has going for it is its authenticity, brought on by the dreamy, documentary-esque style of filming and the improvisational nature of the script. We get the feeling that we’re watching really people struggle to reach points of happy compromises instead of actors dutifully reading lines about clichéd situations. And to Sullivan’s credit, as well as co-writer Derek Dodge’s, the characters’ personalities are well fleshed out early on by means of showing, not telling, by having each actor display various behavioural tics and cues.
The 90-minute movie remains strong right up until the end when each of the three narratives gets resolved. Within each story, the possibility for that happy ending certainly exists, but it starts to becoming quite the eyebrow-raising coincidence when all three couples are treated to a tidy resolution. The one that stood out most was Jackie and Alex, with their 180-degree departure being so radical, it was almost like two new people had taken their places.
In the first half, Jackie is so aloof, she seems the female embodiment of Greg Behrendt’s “He’s Just Not That Into You”. Alex, on the other hand, responds with such self-blaming, therapy-sounding dialogue, you want to slap her silly until she sees what’s in front of her. And when they wrap things up neatly and become a loved-up couple like the other two, it just doesn’t ring true at all and really weighs down the movie’s previous efforts.
However, there’s one plot twist that really takes “That’s Not Us” in a neat direction, and it’s one that doesn’t really have any relevant bearing on the movie at all. It’s not clear whether this is one of the cast’s improvisational moments or Sullivan and Dodge’s intentional writings, but it’s funny, cute and entertaining to watch, especially with the one other neighbour on the island seeming to be in on things without letting on.