By William Wolf

A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY  Send This Review to a Friend

The mix of a younger generation and an older one provides the basis for an unusual, involving story that is both humorous and heartbreaking, adding up to a superior film worthy of special recognition. The younger category is represented by Nathan Fisher, a hopeful but troubled writer in his thirties, played with charm and a lively personality by Bryan Greenberg. The elders are his ailing parents, given memorably poignant performances by Linda Lavin and Harris Yulin.

On the one hand this is a tale about Nathan finding himself. On the other, it is a story about how his parents deal with their problems, with his mother in a stage of worsening dementia and his father looking after her. When the son goes to Florida to visit them after hearing that his father has taken ill, observing them becomes an eye-opener for him—and for us. Meanwhile, Nathan’s life opens up too when he meets contrasting young women, one of whom is likely to become the new love in his life.

Throughout writer-director Michael Maren is observant and sensitive, with a sense of irony tossed in and life’s values explored. Nathan has been living in Brooklyn with Erika (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who also is an aspiring writer. She tells him she is through with him because she can’t stand his lack of spark any longer and she has fallen in love with a literary agent. Her book eventually comes out to terrible reviews, and when over the phone she seeks solace from Nathan, he has the satisfaction of enjoying the irony of the situation.

In Florida, Nathan’s brother Jack (Benjamin King) also arrives to see his parents, and has an added personal reason. Jack has his conservative way of life, but his financial world is collapsing, rendering his criticism of his brother for not finding success empty. But despite their differences, there is still a brotherly bond.

At the local beach club, Nathan meets a pretty but vacuous woman, but his mother’s manicurist, nicely and appealingly played by Kathleen Rose Perkins, is more to his liking. To the director’s credit, their budding relationship is teasingly indicated rather than fully developed, leaving us with the expectation of what’s to come based on the growing warmth between them.

Thus Nathan is finding himself, and we are in on the discovering. There is a lovely scene in which Nathan and his father grow closer, thanks to some superb acting by Yulin. Lavin is in peak form in the depiction of a woman who is losing it, but still projects qualities that make us care for her as a person, not just as a victim. One especially touching, tender scene between her and her husband is both a heartbreaker and a scene of affirmation despite all of the tensions illness can create.

The more I think about this film, the more beautiful and refreshing it becomes and the greater the pleasure in recommending it. It is interesting to note that the esteemed Milos Forman is its executive producer. A Paladin Films release. Reviewed April 16, 2014.

  

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