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Y8 Cayom Film Festival Official Submission Thread

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On behalf of my fellow judges, @Spaghetti and @Reddroast, I would like formally announce that the Y8 Film Festival is open and ready for submissions. 

 

Here are the official rules for the festival agreed upon by all the participants (copied from @4815162342's post):

 

  • In-Competition Budget Limit is $40 Million
  • OOC Budget Limit is $100 Million
  • Public Submission for the Film Festival begins today and lasts for 3 weeks until September 28th. One film may be submitted in-competition and one film out-of-competition. Judges can only submit a single film out of competition. There will be a submission thread set up by one of the judges. There will be a separate discussion/announcement thread run by the judges too.
  • Once submissions close following the 28th, the judges will internally set up a schedule for reading all of the submitting films, in whatever order they agree upon, so the judges read the same films at the same time. The judges will write their reviews of each film and circulate them with each other (via a PM thread) so that one of the judges can post all of the reviews simultaneously.
  • While non-judges are able to read the films, ALL NON-JUDGE REVIEWS/REACTIONS ARE EMBARGOED UNTIL THE JUDGES REVIEW THE PARTICULAR FILM!!!! The discussion thread prior to judge reviews can be used for more general, non-spoiler/non-reaction talk about the festival.
  • Following the finishing of Judge Reviews, the Judges internally confer, and vote on the following categories: Best Film, Best Director, Best Acting Performance (no division by Gender or Lead/Supporting), Best Screenplay (no division between original/adapted). The winner and runner-up will be publicly announced for each category

 

I will also be keeping a list of all the In-Competition and Out-of-Competition films as they are submitted to us.

 

In-Competition Films:

Dirty Hands (dir. Dan Gilroy, @4815162342)

Holland Hannah (dir. Anton Corbijn, @Alpha)

Learning to Care (dir. Brett Haley, @Blankments)

The Space Between Trees (dir. Debra Granik, EGK)

White Wyvern (dir. Drew Goddard, @SLAM!)

 

Out-of-Competition Films:

Numbers Theory (dir. Jeremy Rush, @4815162342)

Sandboy (dir. Benh Zeitlin, @Blankments)

The World That We Knew (dir. Luca Guadagnino, @SLAM!)

Edited by Rorschach
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White Wyvern

Placement: IN COMPETITION

Studio: New Journey Pictures Classics

Director: Drew Goddard

Genre: Drama/Magical Realism

Budget: $20M

Runtime: 1 hr 25 min

 

Cast

Julia Garner as Bethany Holcomb

Gary Sinise as Sylvester Morton

Margo Martindale as Irene Morton

Reid Miller as Brady Morton

Drew Scheid as Ronny Morton

and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Daron Boyer

 

Logline: A resilient young woman travels to her uncle's farm to escape from her abusive boyfriend. Little does she know that the farm contains a secret...

 

Plot Summary (about 6.6k words)

Spoiler
Spoiler

Fade in on a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Inside the store a customer and a cashier, both wrinkly but nonetheless friendly, discuss the worth of different brands of cigarettes. Bethany Holcomb (Jane Levy) storms in and struggles to speak through her anxiety. The men calm her down, and Bethany states while crying that she’s trying to find a farm and that she keeps getting lost and that she knows it’s getting dark and that she’s not sure if she’ll be able to find it. The men encourage her and lay a map down on a table, talking her through navigations until she understands which roads she needs to take. Bethany says thank you, takes the map, and storms out. The cashier asks her if she wants anything on the house. She stammers “no” and leaves.

 

We cut to Bethany fast walking to her car. She enters and fumbles with her keys. We cut and look at the window of the store, where the men look at her and wonder what’s wrong. She finally starts the car, backs out, and drives off.

 

The opening credits appear while she drives through the dark country roads. She darts her eyes, keeping them peeled for road signs and whatnot. At one point, she slams her brakes just in time to stop herself from hitting a deer. The deer trots away, and she continues. She’s clearly been affected by something—we just don’t know what.

 

She makes it the farmhouse, driving past rows of corn plants until she’s able to park. Sylvester Morton (Gary Sinise), a farmer wearing a MAGA hat, walks out with a flashlight and greets her, saying, “thank goodness you made it, I was getting worried about you.” Sylvester quietly guides her inside to a bedroom in the house and tells her to get some rest. Bethany gets some of her things together. We see her changing clothes (nothing too clear), and we see bad bruises on her arms and on her back. She gets to bed and lays down, her eyes open and her body shaking.

 

Fade in and out of black. A rooster crows as the sun rises over the farm. Bethany peeks through the blinds of the window and sees the farm for herself. Confident in the image of the land, she lets go. We cut to her groggily walking down the staircase. Irene Morton (Margo Martindale) greets her and officially welcomes her back to the Morton family’s farmland. Irene hugs Bethany and says she’s glad Bethany made it there safely. Bethany then sees Irene and Sylvester’s two sons, Brady Morton (Reid Miller) and Ronny Morton (Drew Scheid), who are sitting down eating breakfast. They see her and practically trip over themselves getting up from the table. They hug her and welcome back “Cousin Beth.” Bethany doesn’t say much.

 

We cut to Beth taking in the sights of the farm outside. Sylvester is working a good distance away. He shouts, asking if Beth is settling in. She shouts “yeah”. Sylvester says that, while Beth is here, he might need an extra pair of hands once in a while. Beth says she’s capable. Then Sylvester asks her if she likes horses. Beth says that she does. Sylvester suggests to Beth that she should ask Irene to show her around the horse stable. He gets back to work.

 

We cut inside the horse stable as Irene opens the door and light breaks in. We hear the neighs and whinnies of four horses. Irene cheekily states that having horses on the farm gives her something to do. She introduces Bethany to all of the horses. First, there’s Graham, a male Clydesdale with youthful energy. Then there’s Squall, a female horse with ashen gray hair—a little sassy, but very sweet. The oldest one of the bunch is Kuzco—he has hay in his mouth while he looks at Bethany—and he’s pretty reserved because of his age, which makes him excellent for beginning riders. Then last but not least, there’s White Wyvern, named due to his striking snow-white hair. The horse is drinking from his trough when he notices the presence of the humans and looks up. Irene tells Bethany this horse is the most recent addition to the stable and claims that, out of all the horses they own, White Wyvern seems to be the wisest—even wiser than Kuzco. While Irene’s talking, the horse is staring into Bethany’s eyes in a way that pierces her. Irene walks away, telling Bethany to follow her around for the rest of the tour; Bethany struggles to break her gaze away before she finally does.

 

Inside the house, Brady and Ronny plan on tossing the football around outside. Then Ronny wonders aloud if they should invite Bethany to toss the ball with them. Brady says “let’s do it.” They run upstairs and find Beth in her bedroom, but she is currently absorbed in a phone call with her mother. Her back is turned to the boys.

 

Bethany: They gave me a tour of the farm. I saw the horses.

Mother: Good! Good, good, good! So you’re settled in?

Bethany: Yes. I am.

Mother: I’m happy to hear that! You’ll love it at your uncle’s farm!

Bethany: Mom. Please keep me updated about where Daron is, what he’s doing—

Mother: Oh, don’t you worry! You’re safe out there, and that’s what matters! We’ll take care of everything here!

Bethany: Okay. Tell everyone I said hi.

Mother: Will do! I love you, sweetie!

Bethany: Love you too. Bye.

 

Bethany hangs up. Brady and Ronny have been staring at her in silence. She turns toward them, wipes away a tear, and smiles.

 

We cut to Bethany tossing a football with the brothers. Ronny bombards Bethany with a lot of questions about her life. What is it like to live in Wichita, is it hard to go back to farm life after city life, yada yada yada. Brady tells Ronny to lay off a bit on the questions as it’s clear she’s been through some traumatic events. The brothers bicker for a little bit until one of them accidentally throws the football at Bethany’s head, drawing blood. They rush to help her.

 

Cut to everyone sitting at the dinner table. Irene is just about finished setting the table when Bethany (now wearing a band-aid on her forehead) tells everyone that she appreciates their hospitality. Sylvester insists that it’s not a problem. Ronny says, “tell us about Daron,” and Brady tells him to shut up. Bethany gulps; Irene tells her she doesn’t have to talk about him, but she says it’s fine. She calls him the “big bad wolf,” saying that he would drink too much, he would beat her, he would gaslight her and tell her she had no one else… And she says she’s had it. She says, “you couldn’t pay me to go back to him.” Sylvester tells Bethany that he’s glad she’s safe. Then he tells Ronny to say the blessing. They hold hands and bow their heads.

 

That night, Bethany’s laying in bed with open eyes. A glint of light appears from the direction of the window. She gets out of bed and walks to the window, spreading apart the blinds with her fingers. The light is coming from the horse stable…

 

She finds that everyone else is asleep and decides to investigate the light herself. She takes a flashlight and a swiss army knife outside and walks toward the stable. She says to herself, “If this is Daron, I swear to God I’ll kill him.”

 

She steps into the stable. A shimmering aura brightly shines in White Wyvern’s stall. She walks past Graham, who’s trotting in circles, agitated by the light. She walks past Squall, who’s wearily sauntering toward the corner of her stall. She walks past Kuzco, who’s asleep. She grips the swiss army knife, braces, and turns the corner. Then as she steps into the light, her eyes widen, and she drops her knife on the ground.

 

The light is radiating from White Wyvern’s body. There’s a sparkle gleaming from a horn on the horse’s head. “U-U-U-You’re a-U—” she stammers. White Wyvern whinnies. Then she says it: “unicorn.” The horse steps to her and lowers its head so that its horn is within reaching distance. Bethany makes the decision to walk toward the horse, reach out, and touch the horn. The horn’s light spreads out, covering the image rapidly.

 

Bethany, lying in bed, opens her eyes. She sits up and wonders if her experience had been a dream. We cut to her in the bathroom, where she’s preparing to take a shower—she reaches to her forehead and finds that the place where she was hit by the football isn’t painful anymore. She takes off the band-aid—it’s as if the bruise was never there. She feels her sides and her arms—in disbelief, she takes off her shirt and sees that all of the bruises inflicted by Daron are gone. She tears up and tells herself that her encounter with the unicorn was not a dream. It was real.

 

She storms downstairs, excited to tell someone. She sees Irene sitting at the dining room table sorting through bills. She tells Irene, “I have to tell you what happened last night,” but Irene says, “just a minute,” as she’s trying to figure out the Morton family’s budget. She basically tells Bethany that they’re getting through the pre-harvest period by the skin of their teeth, and that they’ve had to cut back on things—including Brady and Ronny’s allowance; they’re not too happy about that. Bethany crosses her arms and says that’s a shame. Irene tells her she wishes there was a way to make things easier for her family. She asks Bethany what happened to her last night. After a moment, Bethany says, “the scratch on my head healed up.” Irene buys her answer.

 

Cut to Bethany alone in her room, looking in the mirror. She laughs to herself and tells herself that she must keep it a secret. She knows the Mortons don’t know that White Wyvern is a unicorn—otherwise, they would’ve sold him already. She tells herself, “you don’t know who’s buying him and for what reason—he healed you up, it’s best you keep him safe and sound.” Then she blushes and jumps giddily.

Cut to Bethany working with Sylvester by handing him wood for him to chop with an ax. Sylvester remarks that her wound healed very fast. She plays it off—“yeah, it healed pretty fast!” He stops chopping and walks up to Bethany, telling her he found a swiss army knife in the horse stable. Bethany admits that it’s hers, but says she must’ve dropped it during Irene’s tour. Sylvester says that makes sense and hands it back to her, but he tells her to watch the knife as he wouldn’t want a horse stepping on it. Bethany says she understands. Sylvester says, “speaking of the horses, Irene and the boys are goin’ ridin’, and you’re more than welcome to come along with ‘em.” This intrigues Bethany.

 

Bethany goes to the horse stable with Irene and the boys. Irene tells her that she’s thinking of setting her up with Kuzco since he’s easy for beginners to ride. Bethany asks if it’s okay for her to ride White Wyvern instead. Irene says, “I’m not even sure if he’s broken in yet. Are you an experienced rider?” Bethany tells her that she’d been riding plenty of horses as a child. Irene shakes her head but caves and allows her to ride White Wyvern. We get a brief scene of Bethany brushing the horse, and Bethany talks to him and gets to know the way he acts.

 

The horse is a bit more than Bethany bargained for at first, but she gains a handle on him. Brady complains that he has to ride Kuzco while Ronny struggles to ride Graham. Meanwhile, Squall trots assuredly under Irene’s command. White Wyvern turns his head and looks at Beth with his eye. Bethany tells him he can go fast just for a little bit, and the horse darts off. The other horses stop walking—even Graham—so they stand and watch while White Wyvern races across the Kansas prairie. Bethany is leaning back from the momentum, but she pulls herself up and leans forward, and we see from her smile that she’s having the time of her life. Irene tells her sons, “that there is a woman who’s tasted freedom for the first time.”

 

Sylvester stands in the living room on his phone. “We’ll see you tomorrow. You too. Bye.” The others walk in just has he finishes the call. Bethany excitedly tells Sylvester that she had a fun time riding White Wyvern. Sylvester says he’s happy for her. Sylvester tells Irene that he wants to talk with her in private, so they go to their bedroom. Brady and Ronny crowd around Bethany, asking her how she was able to ride White Wyvern so well. Bethany talks about her past riding experience, but the brothers demand further explanation, as no one else has been able to get that horse “break in” yet. She says, “if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.” She walks away.

 

We cut to her in the horse stable, sitting on a barrel of hay. White Wyvern is shining bright again, his horn once again appearing on his head. She thanks White Wyvern for the ride and tells the horse that he’s treated her better than her boyfriend Daron was ever able to treat her—and for that alone, she’s grateful. She jokes and says she has to “hit the hay,” telling White Wyvern good night and walking away. Of course, as she walks, the horse stares daggers into her.

 

Fade to the same gas station from the beginning. The same customer from before comes in and asks the same cashier from before for a lottery ticket. The cashier asks if he wants the one with the $200M cash price, and the customer says that absolutely the one he wants. Offscreen, Daron Boyer (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) opens the door, causing the bell to ring. The cashier says he doesn’t look like he’s from around the area. We cut to Daron, who’s wearing black pants, a white tank top, a baggy khaki jacket, and face tattoos that suggest he’s a fan of Post Malone and Tekashi 6ix9ine. He puffs a cigarette and replies, saying, “that’s why I’m asking for directions.”

 

We cut to Daron speeding down the country roads, chugging beer and listening to hypermasculine rap music. He grunts to himself, saying, “Imma put a collar on that b****, she don’t know what’s comin’ to her.” He swerves recklessly into the road on his left.

 

Cut to Bethany helping Irene with dishes after breakfast. Irene tells her that Sylvester invited someone who is looking for a bed-and-breakfast house. Bethany is happy that it’ll help the family financially and asks her who Sylvester invited. We hear the sound of a car being locked. Bethany recognizes the car by its sound and drops the dishes she’s cleaning. She storms to the window and sees Daron marching toward the house. She covers her mouth and runs upstairs.

 

Daron enters and introduces himself to Irene, who immediately figure out who he is and tells him he shouldn’t be there. We cut to Bethany, who’s locked herself in her room and is freaking out. Sylvester enters and confesses that he was given Daron’s name but didn’t think he was the Daron that Bethany had run away from. Irene tells Daron that he has no right to be inside their house, but Daron states that he’s willing to pay a lot of money each day he stays in the house, and that he’ll leave once he regains the trust of his girlfriend—once he regains her trust, he’ll leave with or without her. Sylvester turns back to Irene, telling her they really need the money, and that maybe, just maybe, Bethany and Daron will be able to reconcile with one another. Irene states that if Daron so much as lays an unwanted finger on Bethany, he’ll have to leave. Daron manipulates, saying he’s absolutely fine with those terms. Sylvester tells Brady and Ronny to show him around, and he tells Irene that he honestly didn’t know who he was. Then Irene retorts that maybe if Sylvester had told her that his name was Daron, she would’ve been able to raise that concern before he came. Sylvester claims that he thought the name wasn’t important. Irene shakes her head—“Aye Yai Yai…”


Bethany sits in her room when Daron knocks on the door. Bethany says Daron shouldn’t dare open the door. Daron leans against the door and says he won’t open it. He claims that he’s turned over a new leaf and that he’s never going to hurt her again. He also claims that he might not be able to find another man who’s willing to drop everything to find her like this. He leaves, and Bethany curls up into a ball and cries to herself. Daron goes downstairs and gets a phone call, and it’s from Bethany’s mother, who tells him he needs to give her back the phone he stole from her—and Daron snaps the phone in half and throws it away.

 

Later, someone opens the door, and she throws a pillow, which hits Ronny in the head. Brady and Ronny walk in and ask if she’s okay, and say that she shouldn’t feel like she has to hide in the room. Bethany says that she doesn’t want to be anywhere near Daron. Brady and Ronny promise Bethany that as long they’re around, they’ll protect her from Daron at all costs—so she doesn’t have to hide in that room. Bethany thanks them, and they have a group hug.

 

Daron works with Sylvester and impresses him by helping with manual labor on the farm. Bethany and Irene see this from the horse stable. As they take care of the horses, Irene asks Bethany why she wanted to date someone with all of those tattoos on their face. Bethany says that when they met each other, Daron was a much better man, set up to play college football, but began a downward spiral since his expulsion for cheating on exams. He forced her to drop out of college with him and started drinking and giving in to selfish desires. Irene says with certainty that if they were a little more financially secure, they’d have already kicked him out, and that once Daron pays them enough money for them to feel better, she’ll personally tell him to leave.

 

Bethany makes the decision to tell Irene that White Wyvern is a unicorn. The horse glares at her. Irene begins laughing and says there’s no way White Wyvern is a unicorn. Bethany tells her about the encounters she’s had with him. Irene accuses her of thinking that her dreams are real and states that the day she sees a horn on the horse’s head is the day she becomes an astronaut. But Irene is more than happy to hear that she’s bonding with one of the horses. Bethany frowns.

 

We cut to nighttime. Bethany’s asleep when White Wyvern’s light shines inside of the room. Bethany wakes up and sees that, yes, White Wyvern is standing inside of the bedroom, staring at her. Bethany asks her what he wants, and the horse stomps his hoof and whinnies. Bethany apologizes for almost outing him, telling the horse that that’s how bad she wants Daron out of her life. The horse tips her horn toward her, and she touches it. She then finds herself in a huge stable with almost endless rows of stalls, where she watches as White Wyvern’s previous owners drag him into a stall—and one of the owners whips him. Bethany surmises that White Wyvern, through this vision, is saying that he can relate to her struggles of being abused and mistreated. Then she watches as owners try to drag White Wyvern breaks free from the owners and runs toward Bethany, disappearing into her like a ghost. The owners point at Bethany, saying that they have to run after that horse. Bethany backs away and tell them wait—but she looks toward a mirror, and a reflection of a horse stares back at her. She wakes up from the dream in fear.

 

Cut to Bethany walking into the kitchen, where bad rap music is playing from a phone. Daron’s saying stuff like “uh” and “yeah” while he’s cooking pancakes. She stares at the back of Daron’s head for a moment. Daron notices her and offers her pancakes. Bethany accepts the food because she’s hungry, but insists that just because she’s receiving his pancakes doesn’t mean they’re getting back together. Daron says “aight” and hands her a plate of pancakes that’s topped by butter and syrup. Then, knowing that no one else is around, he tells her, “let me know if you want some sugar—you know I give good sugar.” Bethany stares down with wide eyes. Daron puts the utensils down and saunters toward her, telling her it’s not something to think too hard about—he still wants to be with her, and he still wants to “give her a good time.” Bethany plasters the pancakes on Daron’s shirt, discards the plate, and leaves while saying “on second thought I think I’ve lost my appetite.” Daron’s face grows red, and he curses under his breath.

 

Bethany storms to Sylvester, who’s doing more farm work.

 

Bethany: Uncle.

(Sylvester doesn’t hear her the first time.)

Bethany: Uncle!

(Sylvester notices this and looks at her. Bethany crosses her arms.)

Bethany: What part of “he abused me” do you not understand?

Sylvester: Beth, I—

Bethany: No. You have the authority to kick Daron off your land. You need to do that.

Sylvester: Sweetheart, I know you’ve been through some pain, but I think you should give Daron another chance.

Bethany: Excuse me?

Sylvester: I’ve worked with Daron, I’ve had a beer with Daron, and despite his quirks, he seems to be a nice guy.

Bethany: A man with face tattoos and slurred speech is a nice guy to you?

Sylvester: You have to see through his exterior, Beth—you’ll see who he is on the inside.

Bethany: THAT IS RICH. I’ve known who he is on the inside for years. And for you tell me that he’s someone different from the Daron I’ve had to put up with alone? F*** you. I told you he gaslighted me. I told you he bruised me.

Sylvester: Well… (gulps) I’m more than willing to believe you, but if you say he bruised you, then you should show me your bruises. Then I’d know for sure.

(Bethany stares in disbelief.)

Bethany: So I’m a liar? Is that it?

Sylvester: Beth, I—

 

Bethany storms away from Sylvester. Irene sees Bethany storm away from the living room window—as Irene talks to Bethany’s mom on the phone. The mom tells her that she hasn’t been able to reach Bethany, and that she thinks Daron stole her phone. Irene thanks her for calling and hangs up. Daron, who’s trying to wipe syrup off his t-shirt, claims that Bethany is crazy. Irene says it’s funny—yesterday, she told me that one of the horses was a unicorn. Daron laughs—“did she really? That’s hilarious…” Then Irene thinks for a moment and asks Daron if he’s the one that made her crazy—since a normal girl with a comfortable life wouldn’t be making claims like that. Daron clicks his tongue and says, “c’mon now.” Irene then asks Daron if he’s playing smart with her. Daron laughs off the suggestion. Irene says that she overheard what he said to Bethany, and that she’s the wrong woman to play smart with. She then walks off.

 

We cut to Bethany bursting into the stable. She storms past Ronny and Brady, who are raking hay around the stable. She speaks to White Wyvern with a lump in her throat, pleading the horse to take here away to a place where she won’t have to interact with Daron ever again—she says that Daron will keep pursuing her, and that she’s out of options. Brady and Ronny, confused as to why she’s trying to ask things from a horse, take her away as she cries to herself. Then Brady notices, while Bethany cries, that White Wyvern brushes his hoof against the hay eight times. Brady makes a mental note and follows the others.

 

In Bethany’s room, the brothers ask her why she was talking to the horse. Bethany asks if they’ll believe her. They nod. Bethany tells them that White Wyvern is a unicorn. The brothers exchange glances and tells her that White Wyvern being a unicorn actually makes sense to them. Bethany tells them that she didn’t know what else to do because she feels like there’s nowhere for her to go to truly escape from Daron. Brady then speaks up and says that White Wyvern had brushed his hoof against the hay eight times in a row. Beth deduces that the horse wants her come to the stable at 8:00. Then someone knocks on the door. Everyone freezes, fearing that Daron may have overheard everything they said. Then the knocker opens the door—it’s Irene. She tells them that she’s had a change of heart about keeping Daron in the house, that she should have turned him away in the first place. Then she asks her sons if they own an audio recorder. Ronny says he owns one. Irene says there’s a plan coming together in her head…

 

Sylvester comes in the house—he’s extremely tired from all the work. Irene walks to him and helps him get settled in. Sylvester says hi to Bethany, who’s on the couch reading a book. Irene suggests to Sylvester that later that night, when he’s in the garage with Daron, he should show him the MAGA hat that he owns. Sylvester asks why, and Irene asks if he’s curious to have a political discussion with Daron. Sylvester says that’s a pretty good idea and that he’ll show Daron his hat before walking off. Irene winks at Bethany, who smiles.

 

We cut to a particularly tense dinner scene where Bethany and Daron sit on opposite sides of the table. Sylvester tells Bethany that Daron says he started reading the Bible. Bethany says that’s great as she stabs her salad with her fork. Daron says with a grin that he’s started going to church and wearing “bad button shirts,” and that he wants to listen to the pastor and do what the pastor tells him to do. “I’m happy for you,” Bethany says as she continues to brush him off. Daron continues to act ‘cool,’ saying that he knows he’s not perfect and that he wants to be a better man. Brady and Ronny, sitting next to each other, are staring down, not saying anything. Daron keeps mumbling, saying that he’ll attend AA meetings, he’ll get the tattoos off his face, he’ll do anything Bethany wants—because he loves her.

 

Bethany: You don’t love me. You love controlling me. You love standing on my shoulders and feeling tall. And I’m not gonna take it anymore.

Daron: (clicks his tongue) Aw, c’mon, Beth, you know I’m tellin’ the truth.

Sylvester: Beth, I think you should consider his words—he says he wants to change for the better.

Bethany: (stands up) With all due respect, you don’t know him like I do.

 

Bethany leaves the room, and Irene quickly volunteers to follow her. The others at the table are silent for a minute. Then Daron asks Brady and Ronny if they like Post Malone. They nod their heads. Thinking it’ll impress the brothers, Daron says that he knows all the words to “Better Now” and starts singing the chorus, dancing in his seat. Sylvester looks at Daron with a fatherly expression of disappointment. Brady and Ronny say that they’re finished eating and take their plates to the kitchen.

 

In Irene’s bedroom, Irene whispers to Bethany that she’ll sneak over to the stable to prepare White Wyvern for riding. Irene knows that Beth’s escape hinges on Beth telling the truth about the horse being a unicorn, but she wants to give Bethany’s claim a chance, even if she doesn’t think the horse is a unicorn—because as far she can tell, Bethany deserves to be believed. Bethany hugs Irene tearfully.

 

We cut to the garage. Ronny’s recording device sits on a shelf, unnoticed by Daron and Sylvester who are cracking open bottles of beer. Daron is already getting drunk. Sylvester tells Daron he’s still rooting for him and Bethany to get back together—he knows that things are tense between them, but he’s insistent that the couple can still be happy together. Daron encourages that train of thought by claiming he feels like Bethany is his soulmate, and that he’s come for her because he “really is that passionate about being with her.” Sylvester, almost forgetting, tells Daron he wants to show him something—he walks to a box in the garage and puts on a red hat, showing it to Daron and asking what he thinks. Daron claps his hands together.

 

Daron: Yeah, man! That’s who I voted for!

Sylvester: Well, that’s great! Your exterior’s more liberal—er, youthful—but on the inside, you’re conservative, and I find that really neat!

Daron: Yeah! That time before that Hilary election when he came out with that sound clip of him telling all his friends he’d grab the woman by the *****, I gotta say, I really related to that.

Sylvester: (puts his beer down) You… You related to that?

Daron: Yeah, man! I mean, you gotta grab something you want when you want it! You know?

Sylvester: So… Are you saying you want to grab Bethany… Like Donald Trump…

Daron: Yeah, absolutely, man! That’s what I’m here for, you know? I’m gonna grab Bethany, and I’m gonna get her back, because that’s how much I love her, you know?

Bethany: (walks in and crosses her arms) Glad to hear you wanna treat me like an object. Like you always have.

Daron: Bethany! How ya doin girl! Ha ha! (chugs more beer)

Sylvester: (takes off his hat and turns to Daron) Daron… Is that true? Were you grabbing my niece like that? I don’t approve of that at all.

Daron: She’s lyin. Everything that comes out of that b****’s mouth is a lie. I only did that once—I was just poundin’ her most of the time. She steps outta line? Pop! Just like that! Ha ha!

Bethany: Now, you listen to me, Daron. You better get in your sports car and leave my uncle’s property, cuz’ I ain’t ever getting back together with you. Ever again.

 

Daron stands up and walks to Beth in anger. Beth brandishes her swiss army knife and tells him not to take another step. Daron smacks the knife out of her hand—getting a cut on his hand—and raises her into a chokehold. Sylvester frees Beth by pushing Daron away and punching him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Sylvester tells Beth to run, saying he’ll keep him away. Beth runs to the horse stable. She checks the time—it’s 8:00 on the dot. She runs into the stable and asks White Wyvern to take her away from the farm. The horse stands up; his body glows white, and the horn appears on his forehead. She mounts on White Wyvern, and the horse takes off while Irene, Brady, and Ronny watch. White Wyvern runs across the Kansas plains and disappears in a forest.

 

Ten minutes later, we see that Daron is tied up in the garage. Irene tells Sylvester everything: that White Wyvern is a unicorn, that Bethany took off riding him, and that they’ve secretly recorded evidence of Daron’s abuse, so that Bethany will be safe from Daron for good. Sylvester says “okay.” Then he tearfully apologizes to his wife, saying that he should’ve trusted her from the beginning and that he should’ve judged Daron a little more closely. He wanted Beth to be happy, and he genuinely believed that the path to happiness was through reconciliation with her partner. Irene smiles and suggests that the reason why he thought their relationship was fine was because [Sylvester and Irene’s] relationship was good, in turn making him falsely believe that all relationships were just as good. Sylvester tells Irene that he’s lucky to have her as his wife, and they hug.

 

Daron wakes up, sees Beth’s swiss army knife, and quietly drags it toward him with foot. Brady and Ronny then walk into the garage, telling their parents that they’ve called the police, and that the police are on their way. Then Daron stabs Sylvester in the shoulder and runs out of the garage—Irene attends to Sylvester while the brothers run after him.

 

Daron makes it to his car, but he realizes that he doesn’t have his car keys. He sees the brothers running to get him. Scrambling for a solution, Daron runs toward the horse stable—he bursts in, thanks his lucky stars that he knows how to ride a horse, hops onto Graham, and rides him out of the stable. The horse almost gallops into Brady, but Ronny pulls his brother out of the way, and they watch as Daron escapes on horseback.

 

With no other option, the brothers decide to ride after Daron. Ronny allows Brady to ride Squall since Brady rode Kuzco last time, and thus, Ronny rides Kuzco himself. They ride away from the farm and into the darkness of the night.

 

The police arrive, and after listening to Irene, he resolves to search for Daron. Irene stays with Sylvester and tells him she has a feeling that Bethany will turn out all right. Sylvester tells Irene that if anything happens to Bethany, he’ll never forgive himself. Irene tells him, “don’t worry—just rest.” She looks off with an expression of uncertainty. We cut to an aerial shot of the farm before fading to black.

 

The next morning, Bethany wakes up in a forested area, where small fairies are flying around her. Amazed, she looks at her fantastical surroundings in awe. White Wyvern watches her as he lies in the Grass. Bethany drinks from a stream of water, and she sees the reflection of a female unicorn staring back at her. Bethany touches her face and verifies that she herself is human, but she stares at the reflection for a moment. White Wyvern trots to her and tips his horn to her. Bethany deduces that he’s offering to transform her into a unicorn. She reaches out to touch his horn… But she pulls her hand away. She tells White Wyvern that she want to escape, but that’s not the way she wants to escape. White Wyvern trots away, stranding Bethany in the forest.

 

We cut to Daron, who rides Graham through the forest. He shouts Bethany’s name a few times, his voice tinged with concern. He finds a path in which the light breaks through the leaves of the trees, and Graham refuses to go down that path. Daron hits Graham, but the horse stands on his hind legs, slips Daron off his back, and gallops back to the farm. Daron walks down the path, swatting at the fairies that fly around him, until he finds Bethany near the stream. Daron tells her to stop running away from him, but Brady and Ronny ambush Daron, telling her to run.

 

Bethany follows the stream as she runs away from Daron. We cut to Daron as he shakes off the brothers and chases after Bethany. Bethany is forced to travel down uneven terrain, and she sees that the stream is quickly becoming a river—and the further she runs, the faster the water flows. Daron chases after Bethany, but suddenly, White Wyvern charges toward Daron. The unicorn threatens Daron by jumping on its hind legs and neighing. Daron looks at White Wyvern in fear, and the radiating light is blinding him. He steps backward and falls into the river. Bethany looks and sees that Daron is in the river—and she also sees that the water’s heading toward a cliff, and the water’s falling into a foggy abyss. “Dammit,” Bethany says as she rushes to the edge of the river. She shouts at Daron and tells him to swim to her. Daron reaches Beth and grabs her hand—just in time, right before his rescue becomes impossible. Daron is pulled out of the river, and he collapses.

 

Daron: Why’d you save me? After everything I’ve done?

Bethany: I’m a bigger person than to watch you die.

(Daron catches his breath.)

Bethany: You ever lay a hand on me again, you’re going down that waterfall, you understand?

Daron: (hesitates) I’ve done awful things to you. Things I can’t take back. I’m sorry.

 

Bethany turns toward the forest. White Wyvern is standing there, staring at them. Bethany stands up at the sight of the horse. Then a herd of unicorns comes out from the within the forest and stand with White Wyvern. Bethany stares in awe, as does Daron. White Wyvern turns to join them as they walk back inside the forest, but Bethany tells him to wait. She stares at the horse and hugs him around his neck, telling him she’ll never forget him. Then White Wyvern disappears with the herd, never to be seen again.

 

Bethany walks with Brady and Ronny down the forest path, while Daron trails behind at a reasonable distance. Brady and Ronny talk with each other about the things they’ve seen in the forest. They see police cars blocking the mouth of the forest, and the police are saying “come out with your hands up.” Beth, Brady, and Ronny all turn to look at Daron.

 

Daron: What? Why’s the police here?

Bethany: (raises an eyebrow) That’s your cue.

 

Daron closes his eyes and accepts his fate. He walks past the others and slowly raises his hands.

 

Daron: Beth. You make sure you never get with a man like me. And you two—see Post Malone in concert as many times as you can.

 

The police tackle Daron to the ground, handcuff him, and take him away. Sylvester and Irene run to Beth and the brothers—Sylvester has a cast around his shoulder. Sylvester apologizes for allowing Daron to stay in the house. Beth laughs to herself. Sylvester asks what’s funny.

 

Bethany: It took a unicorn to make Daron leave me alone. Hell, he would’ve forced his way here even if you said no. Plus, you punched him in the face—that oughta count for somethin’.

Sylvester: I’m just glad you’re safe. If anything had happened to you, I would never have forgiven myself.

(They hug each other.)

Irene: I’ll just say, Sylvester—after hearing that recording, if you vote for Trump in the next election, I’ll be pissed.

(Sylvester and Irene have a good laugh.)

Ronny: What are you gonna do now, Beth? Now that Daron’s going to prison?

Brady: We could throw the football. Ride the horses.

Irene: You’re welcome to stay with us as long as you need.

Bethany: Yeah. I’d like that!

Sylvester: That’s my girl.

 

The family walks out of the forest. Beth stares back toward the forest and smiles. We cut to a shot of the forest before gradually fading to black.

 

Edited by SLAM!
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SCREENING OUT OF COMPETITION

 

 

Numbers Theory

 

Inspired by Real Life Box Office Forum Events

 

Genre: Thriller
Cast: Liam Neeson (Shawn), Joaquim de Almeida (Joao Carlos), Dakota Johnson (Mary), Diogo Morgado (Ferdinand), Denis Leary (Rick), with Elisabeth Shue (Kathy) and Karl Urban (Horace)
Directed By: Jeremy Rush
Budget: $35 million
Running Time: 98 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, some drug use and sexual content, and brief strong language

 

Plot Summary (approximately 4.95k):


 

Spoiler

 

Shawn (Neeson) is a respected financial analyst who uses complicated statistical formulas and historical models to make projections about the financial prospects of stocks, currency exchange rates, values of material goods, etc. He has a loving wife, Kathy, (Shue), two happy grown-up children, and even a prize-winning Newfoundland. His life is perfect.

 

Shawn meets with a new client, a Portuguese entrepreneur named Joao Carlos (de Almeida). Joao Carlos is accompanied by his personal assistant, Ferdinand (Morgado) who stays quiet and takes notes. Joao Carlos wants to play the stock market via betting on the successes and failures of Hollywood studios.

 

After a couple short scenes showing him doing research and his personal life, Shawn gives a presentation that shows that Numerator Pictures is about to release an action/thriller film starring a mid-50s actor who until now has only done dramatic work, with total costs exceeding $100 million. The studio is publicly traded on Wall Street, so if the action film tanks, investors will start panicking. Shawn says that his research indicates that the film will indeed tank, making “$12-15 million on its opening weekend, with a final domestic run of $35-40 million, tops.” Therefore he recommends shorting Numerator Pictures’ stock in anticipation of the flop, but advises caution. Joao says if Shawn’s right he could stand to make a killing, so he will short the stock to the tune of $10 million. As he signs the relevant papers, he asks Shawn “you’re not going to screw me over, are you?” Shawn replies he’s never wrong.

 

Outside the office, Ferdinand asks his boss if it was wise to invest so much capital into “trash cinema.” Joao says having been forced to take their business here, they need to make their killing, and this American came highly recommended.

 

We see time progress, Shawn spends some time with his family. He and Kathy talk about taking a nice long European vacation. Shawn also has a short meeting with Rick (Leary), who represents a major hedge fund that is interested in using Shawn’s services.

 

One day Shawn gets an alert from Deadline Hollywood that the action film in question has opened almost $40 million, about triple his minimum projection. Joao Carlos calls expressing concern. Shawn explains action films rarely have sustained business. “Even if it gets to 100 million domestic, which is dubious since critics are tearing this movie a new one, studios only take a bit over half that cut” he explains. “It would need to make over $200 million worldwide to break even. And the studio needs this to more than just break even, since they passed on some lucrative IP to make this movie”.

 

As the next several weeks tick by, we see that Shawn has closed a deal with Rick. We also see that the action film has obtained remarkable legs, crossed $130 million domestically and well more than that overseas. Shawn isn’t broken up, telling an assistant that it was one bad guess. Of course Joao doesn’t feel the same, storming into Shawn’s office one day. Joao says that Numerator Pictures’ stock has rebounded, which wipes out the $10 million invested. Shawn reminds Joao he had suggested caution but Joao doesn’t care. “I asked you if you would screw me, and you said you were never wrong.” He spits on Shawn and storms out.

 

Ferdinand, waiting outside, asks what they do now, since that $10 million was a lot of their seed money. “If your competitors learn about this they’ll see you as weak and move in.” Joao says they won’t when they see how he handles those who screw him.

 

Things seem to go on as normal for Shawn. He meets with an investment banker called Horace (Urban). Horace knows some inside information on a prominent oil corporation. Shawn is intrigued.

 

A week later, Kathy is leaving her and Shawn’s brownstone to walk their Newfoundland when suddenly it gets agitated and yanks out of Kathy’s grip and runs into the street where it is hit by an SUV that speeds off without stopping. Kathy is distraught and Shawn consoles her.

 

The next day, Shawn is at his office, finishing up a call with Horace to firm up their working deal, when he gets an unmarked large envelope. Inside are several photos of Kathy with their dog. There is also a dog whistle. Shawn is stunned for a moment, but then his face contorts into anger. At home he doesn’t mention this to Kathy, but simply tries to numb himself with drinks.

 

A few days later he meets Rick, who notices his tension. Shawn shrugs it off but Rick says Shawn should loosen up and join him and a few other executives he knows on a night out. After some pushing Shawn joins them for some drinking and gets pretty drunk. So when he gets approached by an attractive woman half his age, it only takes a little encouraging to go with her. She takes him to a nearby hotel room and they start making out, but as she starts taking clothes off he hesitates, and is able to sober up and excuse himself.

 

Things seem to go back to normal. Shawn continues working out a deal with Horace where Horace will give him some information that he can use to advise clients. It’s not quite insider trading, but it’s close to the fuzzy line.

 

Kathy is at home talking on the phone with friends when a small package is delivered. She opens it up and finds inside photographs showing Shawn’s almost hookup, though some photos (the audience can tell) have been doctored to look like things went even further. Kathy looks upset and she flings the envelopes and photos across the room, where they scatter.

 

When Shawn comes home he finds the photos scattered about, and goes upstairs to find Kathy sitting on their bed, a couple suitcases packed. The two of them have a fight, Shawn trying to explain that nothing happened, he stopped himself, and Kathy arguing back that Shawn should have known better, that the photos tell a different story, and that now she understands why he’s been putting less time in with her and the family. “Now you get your wish” Kathy says coldly, and she shoves the suitcases at him. Shawn silently takes the suitcases and leaves.

 

Shawn checks into a hotel, pissed off. He thinks about going to get a drink but stops himself. Instead he makes a phone call.

 

The phone call goes to an office where we see a sign that says “Lansky Detective Agency.” A woman about thirty answers and introduces herself as Mary (Johnson). Shawn asks for Saul Lansky and Mary says Saul’s semi-retired and is in Palm Beach for the next three months, but she can help him out. Shawn looks skeptical and says he’ll look for someone who sounds older but Mary says Saul’s taught her a lot. “If you can’t get the best, get someone trained by the best” she adds a little perkily. Shawn sighs and asks her to meet him at a nearby park.

 

At the park Shawn is sitting on a bench when Mary arrives, and Shawn scoffs and says she looks even younger than he thought. Mary says she’ll ignore the ageism and get down to business, and asks Shawn what his problem is. Shawn still looks unsure about this and Mary says she’s not some rookie, she did a tour in Afghanistan, and after she got medically discharged Saul, a family friend, hired her and began teaching her. “But if you wanna be a cranky old misogynist, well good luck with that.” Shawn sighs and apologizes, he’s had a rough week.

 

Mary sits and Shawn says he thinks someone is targeting him. He mentions his dog’s death followed by the envelope, and now the encounter with the woman followed by the envelope to Kathy. Maria asks if he still has the things from the dog-related envelope since she can arrange for some forensic tests on the items. She says she’ll do the same for the envelope and pictures sent to his wife, if she can get them. Shawn laughs and says good luck trying to get Kathy to cooperate.

 

Shawn arranges for Mary to get from his office the envelope with the dog photos and dog whistle. She then goes to visit Kathy, who reluctantly lets her in, first thinking she’s Shawn’s “tramp” but relenting when Mary says she works for Saul. Mary persuades Kathy to let her take the photos/envelope of Shawn’s “encounter”. Kathy isn’t inclined, but Mary says “listen, if the tests don’t pan out, then maybe he is a cheating bastard. But if they do, then maybe he’s not completely full of shit.” Kathy nods and hands them over.

 

A couple scenes pass showing Shawn agreeing to go further into his deal with Horace and the two hashing things out. We get the impression that the increased stress on Shawn has made him less cautious.

 

Mary arrives at a forensic lab used by the NYPD to drop off her stuff. She’s friends with a couple of the lab techs and is able to schmooze them into inserting her stuff near the top of the line.

 

The following day, a pair of federal agents come into Shawn’s office and interrogate Shawn about alleged insider trading and stock fraud, the agents showing evidence they have that has his name attached. Shawn explains what he had done and how it was legal. The agents aren’t convinced and show him documents that show borderline market actions with his signature. None of them have Horace’s name. The agents say Shawn “better get a lawyer on speed dial.”

 

Shawn calls Mary and gets her voicemail. He tells her what just happened and says he needs her help to locate Horace, giving his full name and all other information Shawn remembers about him. He calls his wife and gets no response. He then hears back from Mary, who’s in her office at her computer, looking at government records. Mary says the forensics aren’t done yet but adds that she used Shawn’s information on Horace and she’s found nothing. The guy doesn’t exist.

 

Shawn tries to keep his work going, but his clients are being evasive. Rick comes in to say his investors are nervous about Shawn’s legal troubles, so he’ll have to back out of their investment arrangement until things clear up. He and Shawn have a bit of an argument where Rick says clearly Shawn isn’t the golden goose he was led to believe.

 

After Rick leaves Shawn starts getting himself frunk where he gets a phone call. It is Joao Carlos. Sounding pleased, Joao tells Shawn he’s heard that he’s had a lot of bad things happen. Shawn puts things together and accuses Joao Carlos of screwing with his life. Joao says that Shawn’s failure hurt his business, so he is returning the favor. Joao Carlos says it’s he wants to enter into another “bet” with Shawn. If Shawn can track Joao down, Joao will let him have evidence exonerating him. Shawn says he will find Joao Carlos and make him pay. “Good luck then” is the response.

 

After Joao hangs up we see him with Ferdinand. Ferdinand thinks his boss is being too cocky, baiting Shawn. “Just end it already.” Joao says no, he wants Shawn to have hope first.

 

Shawn paces. Finally he gets a call from Mary. They meet and she tells him two things: first, she’s heard the Feds will be moving in to lock down his business and arrest him in the morning. Second, she has gotten forensic data back with trace DNA from the envelopes. It matches to a low-level thug for hire in Brooklyn. Shawn asks if she can look at the original financial documents from Horace. She says she can but says he’s risking more criminal charges if he tampers with the investigation. Shawn says he has nothing to lose at this point. He brings up what Joao said and Mary replies that if Saul was here he’d call Joao’s promise a crock of shit, and she agrees. Shawn asks Mary if she’s able to do some digging on this guy, since it’s clear he’s not some normal businessman.

 

The following morning we have a tense scene as Shawn sneaks back into the building where his office is. He gets into his office, finds the originals of the financial documents of his deals with Horace, and gets back out just before the Feds arrive. He arranges for a courier service to deliver them to Mary.

 

Shawn looks for the thug, whose name is Curtis. After some careful observation, he finds Curtis with some buddies. Shawn follows them from afar and sees that the car Curtis has is the SUV that ran his dog over. Liam Neeson is pissed.

 

Cut to night, Shawn has tracked Curtis to a club. Shawn takes a metal bat and starts bashing the hell out of Curtis’ SUV, setting off its alarm. After a minute Curtis comes out, furious. Curtis comes at Shawn and Shawn breaks a kneecap with the bat. Shawn asks Curtis who paid him to kill his dog. Curtis is defiant, so Shawn breaks his other kneecap. Curtis then says a dealer and pimp named Isaac was the one who gave him the instructions. Curtis then semi-apologizes about running over Shawn’s dog, saying he feels bad about it. “Apology accepted” Shawn says, before smashing the bat into Curtis’ head to knock him out.

 

Shawn checks into a motel and is called by Mary. Shawn mentions what he’s found out and Mary says it’s a start, and tells him what she has learned about Joao Carlos. Turns out he was a mid-level leader of a Portuguese crime syndicate, but he had a falling out with his bosses and fled Portugal after stealing about $20 million from them. “Then you accidentially wiped out at least half of his money.” Mary adds that this guy has a dark reputation, when he was younger he liked to torture his targets before finishing them off. “He’s gonna be waiting for you to find him”. Shawn says he figured as much, and tells her she can walk away from this, it’s his problem, not hers. Mary scoffs and says if Saul found out she jumped ship he’d kick her ass “and he’s pretty spry for pushing 80”. Isaac comes up and Shawn figures he was the guy who got him set up with the prostitute. Shawn mentions being out with Rick and that Rick and his guys encouraged him to go with her, and Mary says then Rick probably knows how to get to this guy. Shawn wants to handle it but Mary says he’ll be spotted. Let her handle this part. Shawn says ok, there’s something else he’ll take care of.

 

We get a short scene introducing Isaac. He’s lounging in comfort when he gets a call from Curtis, who says a guy beat information out of him. Isaac looks to the side and we see none other than Horace and Ferdinand. Isaac briefly explains the problem and Horace says he’ll make sure the police arrest Curtis for one of the myriad of crimes he’s committed. “He gets put in holding, in a cell with some guys with nothing to lose, and the problem goes away.”

 

Horace and Ferdinand walk out and Horace mentions Ferdinand doesn’t talk much. “I’m paid to listen” Ferdinand replies. “Any other talents other than what 7 billion other people have?” Horace asks mockingly. Ferdinand brushes aside his coat to show a gun holstered on his hip. “My boss is paying you handsomely” Ferdinand says, “it’s on you to deliver.” “I always do” Horace replies with a smile,. “The other American claimed the same” Ferdinand comments.

 

We see a short scene of Kathy going about her day. FBI agents watching her. She goes to Midtown and in the big shuffle of people the agents briefly lose track of her and she is quickly pulled aside by Shawn, who asks her for five minutes. Kathy reluctantly agrees. Shawn eventually is able to convince Kathy he isn’t talking out his ass. Kathy says he should turn himself in but Shawn says he needs proof, so the Feds can’t ignore it. Kathy says she hopes Shawn is right, and asks him to be careful.

 

We see Rick and some cronies out at a steakhouse, acting like rich white financial bros. Rick winds up at a bar and is approached by Mary, who acts like an escort, and she’s able to charm Rick into getting them a hotel room. In the hotel room Rick tries to put some moves on Mary but she uses self-defense training to put him in an armlock, then pin him to the bed with one of her stilettos on his groin. She interrogates him about the escort with Shawn and Rick easily breaks, saying he was just asked to show Shawn a good time, nothing more. Isaac gave him a discount for it. “Tell me all about Isaac or future escorts will not be impressed by you” Mary says.

 

Ferdinand updates Joao Carlos and he isn’t so sure Horace will clean up the loose ends. Ferdinand asks to let him tie things up. Joao thinks for a moment, then tells Ferdinand to keep an eye on Isaac. “If things look bad, use your judgment.”

 

A couple scenes show Shawn and Mary researching Isaac with the info she got from Rick. They create an organizational table listing Isaac’s schedule, everywhere he goes and an average duration of stay for each place. They’ve found blueprints and detail things like exterior cameras and guards. They find when Isaac visits a certain hotel, there is a blind spot in interior security.

 

It’s op time. Shawn uses a laundry exit to get inside the hotel Isaac regularly visits.

 

We see Mary behind the wheel of a car in the hotel’s parking garage. Unbeknownst to her, we see Ferdinand in a car in the same garage, and he sees Shawn enter. He pulls out a gun, screws on a silencer, and slips around to a different entrance.

 

Isaac arrives as expected and follows his routine, going to an upper floor. He arrives in a suite to find Shawn. Shawn says they should talk.

 

Shawn questions Isaac, throwing him around a bit. He wants to know who Isaac reports to. Isaac objects, saying Shawn can only blame himself for going with the woman. This does not improve his situation.

 

After some more aggression, Isaac describes Horace and the arrangements for meeting him, through a phone number. Shawn says Isaac is gonna come tell his friend everything he knows. He drags Isaac into the hallway, and a couple seconds later Isaac is shot. It is Ferdinand. For a second they freeze, and then Ferdinand aims at Shawn, and Shawn shoves a laundry cart at Ferdinand. Shawn is clipped in the right shoulder but the laundry cart hits Ferdinand and knocks him over. Shawn bolts for a staircase and narrowly avoids being hit by a couple more shots. Ferdinand gives chase.

 

Ferdinand chases Shawn through the hotel to the parking garage, narrowly missing Shawn a handful of times. Shawn reaches Mary’s car and dives in and tells her to go. She sees Ferdinand coming towards them with a gun and immediately floors the gas pedal. Ferdinand shoots a couple times, hitting the windshield, but gets hit by the car and rolls over top of it and behind as it speeds off. Mary is hyperventilating and Shawn thinks she’s scared and says it’s gonna be fine. Mary replies “No, that was amazing!” Shawn laughs, but winces cause of his injury.

 

Horace goes to meet with Joao, annoyed Joao tried to undercut him. “Sure you killed Isaac, but your lackey got himself seen.” We see Ferdinand in the room, bruised up and an arm in a sling,. Joao retorts “if the people you used had covered their tracks better, then there wouldn’t have been need for it at all.” Horace reminds Joao that he taunted Shawn to come find him. Joao furrows his brow. After Horace leaves Joao chastises Ferdinand for not finishing the job. “I would have, but he wasn’t alone” Ferdinand replies. Joao looks at the door Horace exited from and tells Ferdinand to keep tabs on Horace. “I don’t want him cutting and running on me.”

 

We cut to Shawn’s hotel room where his minor gunshot wound has been patched up. An employee from Mary’s agency drops off some stuff from her office and she goes over it with Shawn. First, she obtained security camera footage of a building across the street from where Shawn works and found a person matching Horace’s description entering Shawn’s building. Second, her tracking of the financial records Shawn provided has produced a handful of shell corporations that are fronts for a single corporation, which is just a routing service for a LLC. Third, the phone number Isaac provided was a disposable cell, but more digging showed that it was purchased by a credit card. The credit card was licensed by the routing corporation for the LLC. She looks up the LLC’s mailing address and decides to go visit it. Shawn wants to go with her but Mary says that legwork is meant for the young, and he’s well, not. She advises Shawn to meet her at the agency.

 

Mary arrives at the LLC’s office in Queens, giving a fake story. Horace comes out to meet her and they talk briefly. Horace plays it cool and says it must be some error her getting referred to him. Mary asks Horace what his company does. Horace says they’re “strategic consultants.” He says they can talk more back in his office. Mary, sensing some danger, declines. She leaves and when she gets to her car she quickly drives away. Horace meanwhile tells the “employees” around him to start packing things up.

 

Ferdinand has staked out Horace’s place and he starts tailing Mary’s car.

 

Cut to Mary arriving at her office. It’s empty other than Shawn and when Mary she describes the guy she talked to, Shawn recognizes Horace. They start talking about how to proceed, when there’s a creaking noise from outside, and Mary tells Shawn to get down, which they do just as an automatic weapon opens up and bullets rip into the agency office. They crawl into a back office and Mary rummages through her desk until she finds a pistol. “You have a gun?” Shawn asks. “I’m a private detective in New York City of course I have a gun” Mary replies. She motions for Shawn to stay low. Ferdinand enters the agency, awkwardly wielding an automatic rifle. He sees Shawn moving and opens up again, which allows Mary to flank him, pop up, and shoot him twice.

 

Shawn and Mary go over to take a look and Shawn says it’s Joao Carlos’s right-hand man. “He was there at Isaac’s, and he’s here now. Means Joao is scared.” Mary tells Shawn he should go, there’s gonna be cops swarming this place soon and she’s gonna need to set them straight. She flips him her car keys. Shawn thanks Mary for her help and Mary says he can thank her by getting the son of a bitch, though as Shawn exits she calls out “and a bottle of tequila too”

 

Cut to police marking up the agency as a crime scene, Mary talking to detectives. They’re giving her a hard time. At that point their boss comes in and tells them to quit being jackasses, her story checks out. He just talked to Mary’s boss on the phone and got a hole ripped in his backside from both him and the captain. Mary has an “I told you so” smile.

 

At the LLC office, things are being shredded or burned. Horace goes to his car to drive and it’s crossing an intersection when it gets slammed into by another. Horace’s car flips and rolls. As Horace crawls out he sees Shawn walking towards him. Horace staggers to his feet and says “nothing personal.” The two then get into a fistfight that Horace would clearly win if he wasn’t banged up from the car crash, so after a minute, Shawn is victorious. Horace tries to pull out a gun, but Shawn knocks it away. Shawn picks it up and tells Horace that if Horace tells him how to find Joao Carlos, Horace can walk away. Horace sighs and says Joao’s not worth dying for. He tells Shawn of a place in Staten Island along the harbor. Shawn thanks him, and then shoots Horace in the leg. Horace curses Shawn out, to which Shawn replies “I said you can walk away, I didn’t say you could run.” Horace curses and limps away.

 

Shawn drives to Staten Island, while Mary leads some cops to Horace’s company. As they arrest a couple goons and seize some unburned papers, one cop reports about Horace’s car being totaled nearby with no one in it. Mary goes to call Shawn. He doesn’t pick up. She then checks an app on her smartphone and a map comes up with a moving dot.

 

Shawn arrives at the location, a secluded house overlooking the harbor. Shawn walks around, calling for Joao, but there’s no response. As he climbs up steps Joao emerges and tases him.

 

Shawn wakes up tied to a chair, across from Joao, holding a gun. A couple guards are in the background. Joao compliments Shawn finding him. Too bad it ends here. Shawn says that Joao overreacted, since he clearly has enough money to hire private contractors and hitmen. Joao says it’s the principle. Shawn’s failure forced him back to square one. Joao asks Shawn to analyze the probability of him surviving a close-range gunshot. At that point police sirens are heard coming close. “Perhaps you should analyze the probability of getting out of here?” Shawn replies. Joao tells two guards to protect the front while he tells a third to dispose of Shawn. Joao slips out the back. The third guard grabs Shawn and drags him. Shawn kicks and knocks things over, one table having a pair of scissors. Shawn grabs the scissors and stabs the guard in the leg. The guard falls and Shawn kicks him repeatedly until he’s knocked out. Shawn unties himself and runs to follow Joao as the sirens cut off and we hear shouts and some gunshots.

 

Joao Carlos is walking towards a pier with a small boat. As he starts it up he gets tackled by Shawn diving off the pier and the two wrestle as the boat starts moving into the harbor, out of control. Shawn is clearly worn out from all the stuff he’s gone through, and Joao gashes Shawn with a boat hook. He says he’s glad he was able to do this himself and goes for an over-the-top coup de grace swing with the boat hook, but Shawn dodges and smashes Joao’s head into the side of the boat and continues punching Joao until he sees the boat is heading for a rocky mole. He gives Joao one last punch before jumping off the boat, and coming back to the surface in time to see the boat hit the mole and explode.

 

Shawn swims to shore, but he is growing weaker, and he just makes it to the beach before passing out in the surf….

 

The screen fades in to show Shawn in a hospital bed, regaining consciousness. Mary’s sitting in a chair nearby and she says it’s about time. Shawn asks what happened and Mary says she had GPS tracking on her own car, and she used it to help the police find him. They were able to pull him out of the surf. Shawn thanks her and asks about Horace. Mary says a cop car found him hobbling a mile from his office. He’s soon to be in a cell. Shawn’s glad but says he still has some legal problems to clean up. Mary smiles and says that probably won’t be a problem, she got an friend to help straighten that out. At that point an old man enters who we surmise to be Saul. Saul (uncredited cameo by Elliot Gould) tells Shawn that these rookies and kids running around playing cops and robbers are a bunch of amateurs, but luckily their bosses mostly got their heads screwed on straight and listen to smarter people. He’s taking care of everything. Shawn nods, then says “well, not everything. We’ll see if I still have a marriage at the end of this.”

 

At that point we see Kathy in the doorway and she asks for a minute with Shawn. Mary and Saul excuse themselves and Kathy sits by Shawn. “For the record, I’m still mad at you” Kathy says. “But, I’m glad you’re ok.” The camera pulls back as they talk and the screen fades out.

 

 

It is a few months later. Shawn and Kathy have reconciled and his legal issues have been settled. They’re taking that nice long European vacation they’d wanted to do. A couple hours into the flight, Shawn gets a phone call. It’s Joao Carlos. Shawn says he’s supposed to be dead. Joao laughs and says he’s never liked flying, being cooped up with dozens of people for hours. Shawn realizes what Joao is implying and asks where he is. Joao says he and Shawn will get their quality time. “It’s a Non-Stop flight after all”. He hangs up. Shawn looks furious, then determined.

 

Because you don’t fuck with Liam Neeson when he tries to go on vacation.

 

 

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Screening In-Competition...

 

Learning to Care

 

Writer-Director: Brett Haley
Genre: Naturalistic Dramedy
Major Cast:
Nick Robinson as Rob
Brigette Lundy-Paine as Ashley “Ash”
Jimmy Tatro as Robby
Geraldine Viswanathan as Chloe
Lee Rodriguez as Savannah
With Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Linda
And Margo Martindale as Michelle

 

Minor cast/cameos:

 

Billie Lourd as Amy
Odeya Rush as Mallory
Chelly as Bobby
Ncuti Gatwa as Ben
Neve Campbell as Virginia
Helena Howard as Brooke
Dane DeHaan as Dane DeHaan
Jason Isaacs as Jason Isaacs

 

All child actors played by unknowns.

 

Runtime: 103 min
Production Budget: $2 million
 

Plot Summary: A recent college graduate takes a job at a child-care center. A naturalistic examination of the first year of work at a childcare center, heavily focusing on the relationships made with coworkers.
 

Plot (approx 8.8k words):

 

Rob pulls into a parking lot with a junky old car. As he exits the car, it is soon obvious that he is in the parking lot of a school, albeit a parking lot that is mostly empty. He walks to a side entrance of the school, where someone else is standing, waiting too. Rob checks his phone, and, awkwardly wanting to break the silence, says that it looks like they’re there a few minutes early. He introduces himself as Robby, and the other person is revealed to be Ashley. Both are starting here, at a before-and-after care program at a school in the suburbs. Ashley reveals that she has worked before at an art activity center for kids, and Rob says he’s worked at a summer camp before. Both graduated in the past June, and this is their first job afterwards. Before they have the opportunity to speak more though, Linda comes up behind them, and opens the door. 

Linda is their supervisor, although not the person who hired the two of them. Nevertheless, she sizes up the two of them, and gives them a quick tour of the locations they’ll be working: it’s basically a gym, a music room, an art room, and a cafeteria. They’ll both be working right after school, providing care for elementary school kids for parents who work later than the 2:30pm end-time of school. Rob will also be working a couple hours before school, while Ashley passed on those hours. Rob introduces himself as Robby to Linda, and Linda replies that they already have a Robby, coining Rob’s new standard moniker of, well, being Rob. 

Ashley goes to check out the art room on her own while Linda takes Rob to the gym, making a comment that as one of the few guys to be working here, he’ll likely be spending a ton of time in here with Robby. Rob is much quieter around Linda than he was around Ashley, and doesn’t have much to say response to this. The two go to meet Ashley in the art room, and Linda says that since they both passed their CPR and first aid training, they should both be good to go for the first few weeks. It’s a bit of an adjustment but they should both be fine. They’re both dismissed, although Linda says she has to stick around and set up the site. 

As they both head to their cars, Rob and Ashley talk a little about how they feel about the job. Ashley mentions that she’s excited about getting to put together the art curriculum while Rob admits he’s used to working with older kids and not necessarily being expected to run sports for any age. However, both are cautiously optimistic about their new jobs, and drive off. 

The next Monday morning, Rob arrives, bleary-eyed without anything to wake him up. He checks his clock on his phone as he clocks in, and he’s about two minutes late. He runs to the door, and rings the doorbell. A man, slightly older than him, comes to open the door, who introduces himself as Robby. Rob thanks him for opening the door, and Robby gives him a fist bump, saying it’s awesome to see another guy working here. Rob reciprocates and asks if he’s the only other guy here. Robby is, in fact, the only other man who works at this particular site. Robby says that the job drove the previous dude who worked here totally insane, and that’s why he quit. Rob looks at him concerned and Robby laughs, saying that the last guy who worked at this site really just went back to grad school, and considering the few guys who work at places like this, Robby was honestly surprised they gave them another dude.

Rob goes to sit down in the cafeteria where Linda is looking through paperwork, while another woman is on her phone. The woman, Amy (Billie Lourd), quickly introduces herself to Rob, and Rob gives an awkward wave back as he sits down at a lunch table. Robby is a very expressive guy, immediately jumping into a story about his weekend that he excitedly tells Amy and Linda, both of whom are very engaged in the story as well. As kids begin to arrive, Rob sits there, awkwardly unaware of what to say or do, until a kid walks up to him and asks him if he wants to play sorry. Rob says sure.

That afternoon, Rob arrives at the school, with Linda out to meet him. Ashley is there too as Linda leads them into the school lounge, explaining that this is where they will wait for a half hour, as they don’t have the cafeteria or gym until the bell rings. Ashley asks what they’re supposed to do an hour, and Linda responds that they can do whatever they want; it’s basically a half hour of free pay. Robby meets Linda at the teacher’s lounge and asks if they’re both still helping at kindergarten. Linda nods and she and Robby leave Ashley and Rob to stay in the lounge. They look around and see three other women sitting there, on their phones with nametags clearly signifying they work there. Rob and Ashley look at each other and sit down, as the older of the two women, Michelle, notices them and introduces herself. Michelle started her job here after her sons had grown up, as a way to get some extra cash around the house, but she’s worked here for fifteen years. The other two women, Mallory (Odeya Rush) and Chloe, introduce themselves as well, but immediately go back to look at their phones. Ashley and Rob look at each other, and after making small talk briefly, they too pull out their phones. 

The day at work begins, and it goes by quickly: homework time, recess, snack, art and sport and final free time. Throughout the day, it’s clear Robby is really Linda’s right-hand man, although he is very charismatic and enjoys messing with both the kids and his coworkers. He pulls Ashley and Rob aside and says if they have any questions about working here, just feel free to ask him. At recess, Mallory talks to Rob and reveals that she plans on quitting very soon; she has a job lined up in a few weeks. Rob asks for advice, and Mallory responds that there’s not really much advice she can give. Treat the kids like kids, but don’t be afraid to show discipline. During their conversation, it’s clear that Chloe is watching the swings, occasionally glaring in their direction. During sport, Rob and Chloe are sent to run it, but whenever Rob tries to speak up, Chloe tells him not to worry about it, she’s got it. Rob listens to this and does not interrupt. At the end of the day, there are only a few kids left playing basketball in the cafeteria. Rob and Ashley sit down across from each other watching them, and Rob asks Ashley how her day went. Ashley says it was fine but stressful and Rob agrees with that.

The next few weeks blaze by, as Mallory sure enough quits, and Rob goes through all the positions he has to do at his job for the first time: running art and sport, setting up snack with Michelle, watching the kids at recess, and helping out with homework. He and Robby hit it off well, and he and Ashley talk semi-regularly in the lounge before work starts, catching up on their weekends. In the morning, Rob is notably lower-energy and quieter, as he doesn’t really know how to talk to Linda or Amy. Robby tries to include him in their conversations, but generally, Rob avoids it. In the afternoons, when Rob is sent to facilitate activities with Robby, he is relaxed and lets Robby run it, while still being involved with the kids. With Ashley, they co-run it together, needing to frequently call in Linda to deal with behavioral problems. However, with Chloe, it becomes quite clear that Chloe just wants to run it herself, frequently finding excuses to send Rob out of the room, such as making him take kids to the bathroom or speaking over him when he tries to explain the rules. Rob doesn’t really know how to respond to this but just lets it be.

One morning, after Amy leaves early and while Linda is getting ready to serve breakfast and the kids are cleaning up the toys, Robby asks Rob if he plans on working the upcoming field trip to the pumpkin patch. Rob says he doesn’t know, and Robby says that when he started here, he always worked the extra field trip shifts; it’s easy money and generally super fun. Rob asks Robby why he won’t be working it then, and Robby says he’s got a gig the night before. Rob didn’t know Robby was in a band, and Robby says he’s been playing guitar with friends for a bit and interest seems to finally be picking up. Rob congratulates him for this when a first-grader (Joey) suddenly runs up to Robby and asks him if they cleaned up well enough. Robby looks at Joey and jokingly tells him that it looks like he forgot to clean himself. Joey is confused when Robby suddenly picks up and says he’s gonna throw Joey in the trash! Joey starts laughing as the other kids start chanting and Rob stands trying not to laugh himself. Linda sees this and rolls her eyes as Robby puts down Joey right in front of the trash can, saying he changed his mind. Joey asks Robby to flip him, and Robby looks to Linda for approval. Linda tells Robby he can do whatever he wants. Robby smiles and then flips Joey… but accidentally knocks his arm against the trash can. Joey immediately calls Robby out on this, and Robby, somewhat embarrassed, apologizes to Joey, saying he can get breakfast first. 

A few days later, it’s the day of the pumpkin patch trip, and Rob parks at a smaller site, where busses are already lined up. Rob is wearing a uniform with the daycare center’s name on it, matching the children’s field trip shirts. As Rob walks in, he sees several coworkers he doesn’t really know, who work at the other sites during the year, including some other men. One of them walks up to Rob and introduces himself as Bobby (Chelly), and Rob laughs at this, introducing himself. Bobby muses that their boss really likes hiring dudes named Robert. Rob looks around if he sees anyone from his site working, but it’s just Linda running the whole show and also Chloe, who is currently helping clean up breakfast. Wanting to make himself useful, Rob goes to join in wiping down the tables and then says hi to Chloe, who just says hi back and then goes off to talk to Linda, who is currently talking to Virginia (Neve Campbell), the head of the entire program. Rob, used to Chloe’s snubbery by now, goes back to get to know Bobby.

The busses are loaded and then they arrive a few hours later at the pumpkin patch. Rob gets his group of four boys (Joey is one of them), and then Rob takes them to the fairground by the pumpkin patch. After watching the kids ride rides and then eating sack lunches at the food court, Rob takes his kids to the corn maze. They walk through it once as a group and then three of the kids ask if they can run it again. Seeing Linda waiting at the entrance for her kids, Rob says sure, the boys who want to do it again can, and the one who doesn’t can wait with him at the entrance. Linda’s kids arrive back, and that group leaves, while Chloe and her group walk up to the cornmaze. Her kids recognize Rob from work and wave to him, as he waves back. As they enter the cornmaze, Rob briefly hears one of the kids in her group (Craig) ask why Chloe has to walk with them. Rob thinks nothing of it until later, back at the main site, when Craig walks up to Rob and tells him that Chloe thinks he’s a bad counselor. Rob makes a smile and asks him why he would think that and Craig explains that when he asked Chloe if they could run the cornmaze on their own, she said she had to watch them. When Craig pointed out that Rob was just waiting at the entrance for his kids, Chloe answered, “Well, I don’t really think Rob is the best counselor.” Rob, hurt by this but not wanting to show it to the kid, just tells him that Chloe was likely just trying to make Craig listen, and before anything else can happen, Rob looks at the clock and sees it’s 3pm, end of his shift. He gets up, checks out with Linda, and leaves the site, passing Ashley and Amy on their way into their shift (they acknowledge each other).

Early into November now, Rob has gotten used to the job decently, and after feeling challenged by Chloe’s disparaging comment, attempts to step it up at work. This includes actually running sport; even though Chloe still does not let him control it, when he is partnered with Robby, Robby is happy to step back and let Rob be the one in charge. Linda begins to trust Rob on watching the door for parent pick-up when she needs to go use the restroom (choosing to leave Robby alone with the kids instead). All around, Rob gets more comfortable at the job and we see him waiting for his shift in the lounge with Ashley conspicuously absent. Rob is chatting with Michelle, who is talking about her kids, when Ashley walks in late, clearly frazzled. Rob asks her what’s up, and Ashley says that she had to take an Uber to work; her parents took her car for an early weekend trip without letting her know she needed to arrange a ride to and from work. Rob offers to drive her home after their shift, and Ashley initially turns him down, telling him not to worry about it.

However, at the end of their shift, Ashley asks if the ride is still available, and Rob says sure. On their way to Ashley’s house, they shoot the shit on a variety of topics, be it politics, their job, and certain kids who are either annoying or funny to them. Rob brings up that he doesn’t think Chloe likes him and Ashley agrees that she gets that vibe. She’s glad she doesn’t have to work with Chloe often; Ashley generally finds how everyone their age who is studying elementary education at jobs like theirs is pretty anal about the rules, but Ashley doesn’t know how to speak up when paired with people like Chloe. Despite not having anyone else besides Chloe working at their site still at school, Rob agrees, citing his past experience with summer camp being similar. They talk a little about where they went to school and what they studied; Rob went to a midwestern school to study theater and Ashley to upstate New York to study art. Weirdly enough, both of them started as film majors though, until quickly tiring of the program. Ashley mentions that she’s a fan of horror movies briefly, and also The Scavenger Wars movies. Anyway, neither really wanted to be working at a day-care post-graduation, but they are in a similar position with needing some income while they apply to grad schools. Rob mentions like how it’s kinda weird that at the job he’s “Rob” when with everywhere else he’s “Robby.” Ashley gets that, saying that with her friends, she’s generally called “Ash,” but it’s much chiller and easier at work to just go by the full name on the nametag. Rob asks Ashley about her plans for the weekend, and Ashley says she’s gonna hang with her boyfriend and likely go to a party with his friends. Rob’s plans are really just to stay home and maybe catch a movie with a friend. They arrive at Ashley’s house, where Ashley’s car is sitting in the driveway. Ashley rolls her eyes, saying she hates living with her parents still, and Rob, living with his aunt and uncle, gets this. Ashley thanks him for the ride, and before leaving, tells Rob that, y’know, it’s more than cool if he calls her Ash. Rob smiles, and says he can do that.

A quick transition scene occurs of Rob and Linda setting up snack together where we see outside the window the final leaves fall and snow begins to accumulate. Christmas music begins to play as we see shots of kids in the morning playing with dreidels and wearing Christmas sweaters come in. Rob gets surprised when Joey walks up to him and gives him a Starbucks card, and he thanks Joey for the gift. Robby says one of the best perks of the job is Christmas gifts, and Amy comments that last year she got around $220 worth of Starbucks cards. Craig walks in, and his parents give Rob, Amy, Robby and Linda all a $50 Target card. As soon as the parents leave, Linda comments that she’s always waited until after school ends to go Christmas shopping; the Target cards alone generally cover an entire Christmas’s worth of gifts.

Rob enters the company Christmas party, which is being held at a fancy restaurant and is much more crowded than he expected. All the employees are attending, so Rob quickly looks for someone he’d recognize. He walks by Linda, who is already pretty drunk, at a table full of the other directors around her age; and then by Chloe, Amy, and Robby who are all sitting together. Robby invites Rob to sit with them, and Rob thanks him, but moves on (not really wanting to spend the party with Chloe or Amy). Rob sits down with Michelle and Ash, who brought her boyfriend, Ben (Ncuti Gatwa), as a plus one. Michelle says that her husband is staying home with the kids, but then asks why Rob didn’t bring anyone. Rob says he doesn’t have anyone to bring, and Michelle points out that his aunt or uncle would’ve likely been happy to come with. Rob doesn’t really know how to respond to this and Ash recognizes this and introduces him to Ben. Ben and Rob get along decently, and then it’s time for a white elephant exchange. Ben and Ash keep talking throughout it, while Michelle tries to talk to Rob. Rob generally starts feeling really out of it, looking over to Robby’s table, which genuinely seems more engaging than his, what with Ash and Ben very engaged with each other, and Michelle, bless her soul, being much older than him to be able to really let loose with. After the exchange, Rob goes over to say hi to Robby’s table. Robby is naturally very excited to see Rob, and give a noogie. However, Rob is surprised to see Chloe asking him what gift he got. Amy stays on her phone during this, but Chloe and Rob share a short conversation about the upcoming holidays. Both will be working some of the days of the winter break camp, something that Robby proclaims he’s glad he’s taking off on. Rob goes back to say goodbye to Ben and Ash (Michelle has already left), as Ash explains she won’t be working winter camp; her family is going on a trip to Texas to visit her grandparents. Rob wishes her a great break. As they all leave the meeting, Virginia stops Rob and hands him a box of candy along with a live check. Unaware he was getting a bonus, Rob thanks her profusely, but Virginia ignores him, trying to get Ash her check and candy quickly.

Jump ahead to Rob on a school bus, looking out the window. A kid sits next to him, both in the daycare’s field trip uniforms, and Rob pulls out his phone, letting him and the kid play with SnapChat filters. The bus arrives at the field trip’s destination, a trampoline park, and as Rob watches the kids get off the bus, Chloe tells him to go ahead, she’ll be the last one off. Rob obliges and goes inside the trampoline park. Linda tells all the counselors (who, besides Rob, Bobby and Chloe, are mostly people not yet seen) that they are expected to be on the trampoline court, actually trampolining with the kids. Chloe goes to talk to the other counselors once Linda leaves, and Bobby reveals to Rob that all the new counselors are summer and winter only workers; they go to school nowhere near here. Chloe’s close with them because they’ve been tight for years. Rob comments that he can’t imagine never having left his home, and Bobby takes offense to this, saying he’s never left here either. Rob apologizes, and Bobby says he’s just messing with him. A quick montage occurs of the rest of the field trip, with Rob trampolining straight towards a wall, making kids laugh; Bobby and one of the winter counselors getting into a foam sword fight on top of a balance beam above trampolines; and Chloe playing Duck-Duck-Goose with a group of kids on the trampolines.

On the bus ride back to the main site, the kid sitting next to Rob falls asleep rather quickly, so Rob pulls out his phone to check any notifications. He sees that Ash has followed him on Twitter - and moreover, Ash’s bio notes that they are non-binary and use they/them pronouns. Realizing that Ash has chosen to come out to him in this way, Rob quickly texts them, and, while first typing out something to acknowledge the coming-out, erases that and asks them how their trip has been. A few minutes later, Ash replies with a complaint about how their parents have been ridiculously annoying, but they don’t mind spending time with their parents. Rob replies back as the film fades to…

The first day back after winter break, Rob has actually arrived first for once in the afternoon. Ash enters and the two immediately start talking about how their breaks were. Rob enjoyed the field trips and Ash really appreciated the time off but they’re also ready to go back to work. Ash mentions that they have also been eagerly awaiting to hear back from grad school applications; Rob does not really have a response to this, as Chloe and Michelle arrive, interrupting the conversation. Linda and Robby lead two women into the room. Linda introduces Brooke (Helena Howard) and Savannah, two new hires who will be working at their site for the second half of the school year. Brooke is a freshman at a local community college and Savannah a sophomore; the former studying physical education and the latter studying elementary education. Chloe remarks that she’s glad she has some company here finally, while Robby just muses that he’s glad they won’t be understaffed anymore. That afternoon, recess outside occurs with Rob watching a giant snowpile the kids are playing in, Later, Rob ends up running sport with Brooke and Ash runs art with Savannah (Chloe was sent to be in charge of the homework room). Rob and Ash both feel odd being put in a mentorship position, and let their two proteges know this rather quickly. Brooke’s response is that she’s cool, since eventually she wants to be a gym teacher anyway. She’ll be able to learn how this job does it, and then will gladly work alongside Rob in a few weeks. Meanwhile, Savannah is just kinda quiet around Ash, but generally outgoing with the kids. 

The next morning, Rob arrives at work, and sees Linda introducing Savannah to Amy. The morning goes by quickly, with Savannah being as quiet as Rob was when he started the job. At the end of the shift though, as Rob walks to his car, he notices Savannah is waiting on the edge of the lot. He goes up to her, and asks her why she’s not leaving, and Savannah answers that she doesn’t have her license yet, so her mom’s gonna come pick her up. Rob offers to drive her home, and Savannah says her mom is already on the way, and Rob shrugs, leaving the lot. However, that afternoon, during snack, Savannah asks Rob if that offer is still open for the next day, and Rob says sure. He doesn’t do much after his first shift anyway.

The next day, after the morning shift, Rob drives Savannah home, asking her directions to her place, which she gives, obviously. She lives about fifteen minutes from work, so they shoot the shit about a variety of random topics: movies, Savannah’s goals in life, why Rob is working at a day-care when he really has no desire to work with children or in education long-term. The works. After a while though, the editing makes it clear that these snippets of conversation are not from the same trip; rather the evolution of the now regular ride home for Savannah. Eventually, Rob feels comfortable to mess around with dramatic braking or Savannah jokingly yelling at him to quit it. They complain about Linda’s management and talk about how they think Robby is cool. Eventually, they arrive at Savannah’s family’s apartment, and Savannah exits the car.

A few days later, in the after school lounge, Ash and Rob sit together talking as usual, when Linda and Robby come in, followed by Virginia. Immediately, the employees in the room straighten up and say hello to Virginia. Virginia says hi to them all, saying it’s just a routine check-in on their sites. She tells Rob to take off his jacket, as it makes them look bad in front of the kids. Rob takes it off, but shares a look with Robby, who defers his eyes to the ground. However, Virginia is more upset with Brooke, who has a cup from Starbucks sitting in front of her. Virginia reminds them all that one of the biggest rules they have is no food or drink besides water, and it needs to be in an unmarked container. Virginia then leaves, quickly followed by Linda, who apologizes to everyone, and Robby, who gives them all a big shrug, and leaves. Brooke stands up and throws her drink out, and sits quietly. Chloe breaks the silence and says that she shouldn’t worry; Virginia is just always like that. Brooke murmurs that she doesn’t get why she needs to be so mean; she didn’t know that rule, and moreover… she was only gonna drink it in the lounge. It wasn’t ever gonna be in front of the kids. Ash says that she shouldn’t let Virginia bother her; she makes all of them nervous. Michelle agrees with Ash, saying that she’s much older than the rest of them, but Virginia still terrifies her. Savannah puts her arm around Brooke, but Brooke pushes it off, saying okay, thanks, but maybe they’re all overblowing it. Rob sits there awkwardly, deciding to comment that he's glad he didn’t bring his lunch into the lounge today, like he does semi-frequently. 

That afternoon, Linda calls a meeting for everyone after work. Virginia was fine with the site for the most part, but they need to change clubs (after-school themed activities they do on Wednesdays). They’ve been doing the same ones since the beginning of the year, so Virginia is a tad annoyed by this, since they were apparently supposed to change them once every two months. They need an art club, a sports club, and a third club that fits under neither of those. First though, Linda says she’ll want Michelle in the homework room to help with pick-up on Wednesdays, so she doesn’t need to do a club. Robby volunteers to run a soccer club, which Brooke will help him out on. Ash naturally takes the art club, which Savannah volunteers to help with. That leaves Rob and Chloe, who don’t know what club to do. Linda says that actually, she has the club for them already; the sites will be eligible for a grant if they move forward with a STEM club. Chloe volunteers to take the reins, and although Rob points out he actually has experience running a STEM club at his old summer camp job, Linda says Chloe will be the official leader of the club, although more due to her being more certified than Rob than anything else. However, they can both plan it together.

Chloe says that she can plan the first week and Rob can throw some other ideas at her. Rob gives the ideas he has: an egg-drop challenge and marshmallow catapults. Chloe says they’ll do them, but not the first week. The following Monday, Rob helps Chloe set up the STEM club, which ends up being a slime making activity. Rob has never made slime before, so it’s really more Chloe going around helping the kids start and Rob shaking up their slime when it needs to be, or dying the slime with food coloring when it's time. Another montage begins, this of the various science projects: be it the aforementioned ideas from Rob, or other ideas, such as a tornado in a soda bottle or film canister rockets. The kids are generally excited about these, and Rob tends to work in a subservient role to Chloe, even on his project ideas. Still, Chloe and Rob work together well, although it never gets to the camaraderie levels that Rob has with either Ash or Robby. Nevertheless, the STEM club is a success.

Winter turns to Spring, and one morning, Amy is ready to leave early. She says bye to Linda (who is prepping breakfast) and Robby (who is making sure the kids keep cleaning up). Savannah is watching the bathrooms while Rob is also helping the kids clean up. Jump ahead to everyone eating breakfast, both the children and the workers. They all wrap up, with the kids going to grab their backpacks and jackets. Robby and Rob just discuss what they did over the weekend. Rob asks Robby how the band has been going, and Robby says it could be better, but it’s fine. Rob tries to ask more, but Joey interrupts them both, asking Robby how much longer until they get to go outside for morning recess. Robby checks his watch and says it’ll be maybe in 40 years. A third-grader walks up and asks Robby if he can flip him. Robby looks around and says that the last time he flipped a kid it didn’t go so well. Joey volunteers to be flipped again, and Robby checks to make sure Linda isn’t around. Robby then flips Joey, to the cheers of all the kids. Robby celebrates, saying he’s glad he didn’t hit Joey anywhere this time. Joey though says he felt his head swipe against the ground, and immediately Robby gets serious and asks Joey if he’s okay. Joey says he’s fine, but Robby still checks his head for swelling, and asks again if Joey is joking or not. Joey just smiles and walks away, while Robby looks concerned. He comments to Rob that he needs to stop being pressured by the kids to do dangerous stuff with them, and Rob, with a lack of anything else to say, agrees.

The week after Spring Break, Rob arrives to work in the morning, and is immediately handed a bag by Linda. Rob asks what it is, and Robby comes in from the hall wearing a super chill track jacket with the company’s name on it in small lettering. Linda says it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, so the staff all gets nicer clothes than usual that they can wear at work, along with a gift card to Starbucks. Rob thanks Linda for it, and sits down as both Savannah and Amy also receive their gifts. Rob asks Robby if he should expect gifts from the parents or kids, and Robby scoffs, saying the kids don’t really view them as their “teachers” anyway. This said, he should expect maybe two or three gifts. Sure enough, by the time shift ends, every worker received around $60 in Starbucks cards (not counting the gift from Virginia). As Rob drives Savannah, they talk briefly about how cool the gift perk of the job is.

A few weeks later, Rob pulls into the parking lot of the smaller site wearing his staff uniform. It’s clearly nighttime as he walks into the building, which is packed with kids and parents alike. He sees Savannah and Michelle serving pizza to the kids, and he walks by Ash eating pizza with someone he doesn’t recognize. Ash waves Rob over and says that they asked Linda and apparently both their shifts start in like 20 minutes, so he can grab pizza if he wants. Rob nods and goes over to grab pizza, but first decides to check out the gym. A large number of tables with kids and parents eating at them are set up, and on stage is Robby, telling jokes and pulling up items to bid on. It’s an auction fundraiser, with Robby as auctioneer. After selling a free spa trip, Robby says they’re gonna take a ten minute break. He waves over to Rob, and Rob heads to him, where Robby gives him a hug, telling him he’s glad he made it. Rob points out that he’s really only here because he has to be. Robby asks if he brought a change of clothes, and Rob, taken off-guard by the question, says he thinks he has some in his car. Robby says he, Linda, Ash, Chloe and a few others are hanging out after this and getting some drinks. Rob says he can’t drink and drive, and Robby offers him to leave his car at Robby’s place and sleep on the couch. The bar is within walking distance of Robby’s place too. It’ll be fun!

Sure enough, after the fundraiser, they all go out for drinks. Oddly, despite their close friendship, Rob and Ash find themselves on opposite ends of the table, dealing with Robby, Chloe and Linda talking about funny work stories in the past around them. They don’t entirely disassociate from the conversation, but the two of them find little to add to the raucous tales of past coworkers and children. They do both get drunk though, but notably, they don’t really even attempt to have a conversation together. As Robby and Rob arrive back at Robby’s place, both pretty drunk, Robby offers him some leftover tacos in an attempt to sober up. Rob takes them and then sits on the couch for a bit. Robby sits down next to him with his own tacos, and asks Rob how he’s liked his first year working at their job. Rob answers that it’s been genuinely pretty fun; the kids make everyday interesting and for the most part, he likes his coworkers. Robby narrows his eyes at him and asks Rob if he has a crush on any of the coworkers and Rob looks uncomfortable. Robby clarifies, saying he doesn’t have to say anything if he doesn’t want to, but in his own personal experience, there’s been coworkers who he’s been interested in, and even one he’s dated in his last eight years or so working here. Rob answers that he was kinda interested in one of their coworkers, but he doesn’t want to pursue anything. Robby says he doesn’t have to tell him anything, but he wants to get one guess. Rob tells him to go ahead and Robby guesses Chloe, which makes Rob laugh and shake his head. 

Robby wasn’t expecting that answer, but honestly, he doesn’t want to press more. Rob asks, as always whenever they get to talk, about how his band is going. Robby grimaces and says that honestly, not too good. They still get some gigs here and there but Robby’s in a bit of a rut. Rob asks him to explain, and Robby says that he started working here after high school so that he could make some money on the side while he pursued his dream. But now he’s turning 27 and realizing that he needs to get his shit together and get a job that both pays better and offers more hours. Rob doesn’t know how to reply to this, and Robby says that Rob is lucky, he’s still pretty young at 22. He still has time to figure this shit out, and he has a degree too. Rob snorts and says he just has a degree in theater, and that’s pretty useless on its own. Robby asks if any auditions have been going well, and Rob answers that really he’s only gone to a few because he’s busy with work and then also just other commitments with old friends from college and high school. Robby says Rob needs to prioritize the shit in his life, and Rob asks him if he has. Robby answers that he knows he hasn’t prioritized what he needed to; that’s why he’s still here in his late 20s. Robby points out something to Rob: outside Ash (who is Rob’s age), Linda (who is the supervisor), and Michelle (who is working as an empty-nester mom), he doesn’t know anyone at their work who isn’t trying to be a teacher. They just work here during college to save money for those student loans. And unless Rob wants to be a teacher, there’s gonna come to be a point where he needs to choose whether to keep working here and with children, or to move onto another job. Rob asks Robby why he’s going so far in on this with him; as he said, he’s 22. He has time to figure this out. Robby sighs, and says Rob’s right. He does. He just wants to make sure Rob’s aware of this. Rob thanks him for this, but says that he should be getting for bed. Robby apologizes for keeping up, and Rob tells him not to apologize, and thanks him again for the couch. Robby leaves the room as Rob shuts his eyes.

And opens them, mid-sentence of Linda talking at a morning meeting. She passes out medical forms, saying that with camp gearing up, these need to be submitted soon. Rob points out that it’s early May, and Linda replies that it being a month away should, if anything, make Rob confused that these forms weren’t being filled out yet already. Robby grabs the forms and thanks Linda for them, and then he asks Rob what position he wants in summer. Rob answers that he’s aiming for an assistant counselor, as planning activities sounds difficult. Robby agrees, saying that’s usually what he goes for. That afternoon at recess, Rob approaches Ash with a question for them: a friend cancelled on him for tomorrow night, and he has a ticket to a screening to A Cure for Wellness, which will be followed up with a Q&A with Jason Isaacs (and Dane DeHaan. Neither of them really know what the movie is about or even who Dane DeHaan is, but Rob says that he thought that they might be interested in Jason Isaacs. Ash does agree that they’re a fan of Jason Isaacs, and says that tomorrow they’ll just have their parents drop them off at work, and then they can go to the movie afterwards.

At the screening the next night, the film ends and Rob looks over to Ash, who seems to be in an amused shock. The film was weird in the best possible ways. Jason Isaacs comes out to huge cheering while Dane DeHaan gets light applause. The only bit of the Q&A shown is a bit where Jason Isaacs makes a joke that he has somehow become an A-Lister in Hollywood, whereas Dane DeHaan couldn’t even get a credit in Attack on Titan. Dane DeHaan forces a smile at this, as Rob laughs at this while Ash looks confused. Rob says he’ll explain the joke to them on the way home. Cut ahead to the car, in the middle of Ash giving a polite chuckle to Rob’s explanation. Rob asks Ash if they’re gonna work the camp this summer, and Ash says they actually got the job as the full-on art supervisor. Rob congratulates them, and says that sounds like a lot of work, but he’s happy for them. Ash says that they’re looking for more experience so they can move onto something else. Rob asks what they mean, and Ash is surprised, and says they presumed Rob would be in the same boat; this day-care job is meant to be a temporary transition job. Rob asks how the grad school applications went, and Ash says that they never heard back from any of them. Their plan for the summer is to take an online session for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, so maybe by next summer, they can look into maybe moving abroad to Japan and becoming an English teacher. 

Rob asks why they don’t want to pursue their dream anymore, and Ash tells him not to judge them. They can still go after their dreams, but first, they gotta move out of their parents’ house. Ash then asks Rob how his dreams are going. Rob admits he’s also in a tough spot. He doesn’t know if he really wants to move on yet though; within the hours working at their program, he has been building up credentials that allow him to possibly move up to work somewhere else - somewhere more theater-specific - while still working with kids, which he’s found he really likes. Ash says then it looks like the two of them will at least be working together another year, and Rob says he guesses so. They’re both 22 though, and they got a lot of their lives ahead of them. Ash muses that maybe at some point in their life, they’ll actually have a job they’ll be comfortable being out at. Rob pauses for a second, and says, yeah, that would be cool. After a brief silence, he asks if he’s the only coworker they came out too, and Ash answers that yeah. He seemed like he wouldn’t act weird about it like a lot of their friends did when they first came out. Rob points out that coming out as non-binary by following him on Twitter is a pretty nonchalant way to do it, and Ash teasingly asks him if he wanted a huge theatrical number about it. Rob says that he just thought it was cool, it’s just that they’ve never actually talked about it, and it meant a lot to him that Ash trusted him with this. Ash says that they’re friends, so of course they’d trust him.

They drive a bit more, and Ash asks Rob if he’s found any friends outside of work. Rob says that he really hasn’t honestly, but that’s okay, because work and the theater stuff takes up so much of his time. Rob reciprocates the question to them, and Ash answers that they broke up with their boyfriend a few months ago, and with him, most of their local friends are gone (they were closer to him than they were to Ash). However, Ash has liked having the time to be alone for a bit. With their sisters back home for the summer and the ability to really focus on their art, they are okay with a little break from socializing; they get enough socializing at work anyway. Rob says if they wanna hang out during the summer at all, he’s down. He likes socializing at work, but tonight has been fun. Ash says that they’d like that, and maybe they can invite Robby, Brooke or Savannah along too. Rob says that’d be chill, just as long as they don’t invite Linda. Ash rolls their eyes, and says they’ll try not to. They arrive at Ash’s place, and Ash flashes a peace sign to Rob as they head to their door and Rob drives off.

A few days later at Virginia’s house, the end of year party is going on, with every afternoon work  from Linda’s site sitting together (you can see Bobby, Amy and Virginia in the background of shots), eating hot dogs. Chloe and Rob talk briefly, as it turns out they will be working together as counselor and assistant this summer. They are both actually looking forward to it, remembering their STEM club turning out better than expected. Moreover though, Rob asks first if Chloe is happy with him, and Chloe reassures him, Rob is honestly one of the top three options for assistants, considering most of the workers in summer are, well, summer-only workers. As Rob returns to talk to Ash more (who is chatting currently with Brooke and Savannah), Chloe then asks Robby pointedly what position he’s gonna be working this weekend. Linda gives Robby a look, and Robby gives Chloe a quick glare and then says he was going to wait until the end of the party, but since Chloe asked, he has an announcement to make to everyone: next week will be his last week working in the child care program. He’s taken a job as an event technician that he’ll be starting in a few weeks; basically, it’s like he’s a roadie, but for events solely in the city. Everyone kinda stares in shock, except for Chloe, who says that Robby should feel better now that he’s spilled the beans. Robby says that yeah, it does feel better somewhat, but he doesn’t want any big dramatic goodbyes until the last day. They all agree that they’ll miss Robby, but agree to respect his wishes.

The last day of school. After the last kid gets picked up, the employees head out to the parking lot to all give their goodbyes to Robby. Chloe gives him a quick hug and says they’ll hang out on Sunday, while Michelle and Linda begin to give him a long goodbye. During this, Rob, Ash, Savannah and Brooke awkwardly wait and Rob asks Savannah if she’ll still need rides in the summer. Savannah points out that she’s been riding home with Brooke every afternoon, and that’s what it’ll be in the summer, and Rob comments that he was just asking. Brooke narrows her eyes at Rob melodramatically and asks him if he’s trying to steal her cousin. Rob pauses for a second, and asks if he’s serious. Brooke doesn’t understand what he means, and Rob asks if Brooke and Savannah are cousins. There’s a long pause, and Ash asks Rob if he’s being serious right now. Rob is really confused, and Brooke and Savannah laugh, saying they assumed he knew they were cousins. Ash says that they learned that on the first day the two of them started working, and Rob is confused on how he missed this.

Brooke and Savannah give Robby their goodbyes, as Robby wishes them luck in everything. It’s just Ash and Rob now, and he tells them that well, they did the hard part. They finished their first year here. Ash points out that they still have camp, and Robby says that camp is the easy part. The hard part is getting to know who to trust, and he can tell the two of them trust each other. Robby gives the two of them a look, and he says he wants to give them both personal goodbyes. Rob says okay, but then Robby continues staring at him, and then clarifies that he’s gonna say goodbye to Ash first. Rob then awkwardly runs after Brooke and Savannah, to talk to them briefly while Robby finishes up with Ash first. Robby and Ash hug, and Robby tells them that he really hopes that their art thing works out. Ash says that they don’t know about it, and Robby says that if it doesn’t, he knows that they’ll make a fine teacher. He gives them a hand clasp, and says that he is proud of them for all they’ve done here. Ash thanks him again, and goes in for a hug again. They begin to briefly tear up, but Robby admonishes them, saying that he gave them his Facebook and phone number. He’ll be around to hang if they want, and they should enjoy summer camp. Ash nods, and then leaves, waving to Rob to come over.

Rob and Robby sit on a bench, staring at the now empty playground as the sun sets. Rob asks him if he thinks he’ll be happy as a roadie. Robby doesn’t know. Robby though does think there comes a time in this job where people need to either decide to become a teacher or leave. Robby doesn’t think he’d be a great teacher. Not because he doesn’t know how to discipline the kids, or have fun with them, but because, well, his weakest point has always been actually helping them, with their homework or other projects. Rob looks at him like he’s crazy, saying he’s all the kids’ favorite, and when the kids find out this was his last day, they’ll be heartbroken. Robby shakes his head and says they’ll be fine. Robby asks Rob if he remembers anything from when he was in elementary school. Rob answers that he remembers breaking his wrist, and Robby chuckles. As much they love this job, they need to remember that the direct impact they have will ultimately be forgotten. They’re kids. It’s not that their counseling doesn’t have a positive impact on their lives, but when it comes down to it, in ten years, all the kids will remember that there were a couple of dudes and a lot of women watching them as a kid; whether it was Robby, or Rob or another guy won’t matter. Hell, next year, it’s like Rob starts going by “Robby”.

Robby says that he loves working with the kids, but that time of his life needs to be over so he can get to a place where he can have his own kids within a decade or so. He thinks he’d be much a better dad than he was a counselor, and Rob agrees with him. Robby playfully punches him, and Rob says that wasn’t meant to be rude; he just thinks Robby will be a great dad whenever he ends up being one. He was practically a dad to all the kids this year, and a big brother for all the coworkers. Robby thanks him, but then points out the real reason why he chose Rob to be the last person he said good-bye to. He talked to Linda about it, and next year, Rob will be the only man at this site, most likely. Registration for the fall semester has already completed, and they have a little less kids than this year, and as such, this site will only need one guy. Now, he’s not expecting Rob to suddenly become the sports guy, but he knows Rob will be able to step up where he needs to, and take on the same role he had this year. Robby had been debating on leaving for a few years now, but this was the year for two reasons: one, Robby needed to move on, but moreover, Robby knew he could trust Rob to handle whatever comes his way. Robby gives Rob a bear-hug, and tells him that he is so proud of how much he has changed for the better over the past year, and he knows that, even though the kids might not remember their names eventually, they will be forever affected positively by Rob’s caretaking of them.

Not knowing what else to say, Rob cracks a joke about how he’ll be sure not to try to flip any kids. This gives Robby a big belly-laugh as he relaxes into the bench. Robby tells Rob to go home, and get hyped for Monday and camp. Rob asks what Robby’s gonna do, and Robby says he’s just gonna sit here a bit, and let this chapter of his life close on a sunset. Rob looks at him quizzically, saying that’s pretty poetic for him, and Robby shrugs, saying he doesn’t think he’s gonna regret leaving this job, but he doesn’t want to regret how he chose to leave. Rob shrugs and says good-bye to him, heading to his car. The film ends on a shot of Rob driving away, the sunset glaring down, the camera focused on the parking lot and the playground behind, as Robby sits quietly, contemplating his last day of work and his time as an after-school counselor.

LEARNING TO CARE

The credits are set to an original song, “How to Care,” written by Keegan DeWitt and sung by Brigette Lundy-Paine (something in the vein of this.)

 

Edited by Blankments
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The World That We Knew

Placement: OUT OF COMPETITION

Studio: New Journey Pictures

Director: Luca Guadagnino

based on the novel of the same name by Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction

Target Y8 Release Date: November 15th

Budget: $42.5M

Runtime: 2 hr 03 min

Composer: Alexandre Desplat

 

*New Journey Pictures is hoping to utilize the festival screening to decide which MPAA rating the film should receive.*

 

Major Cast
Katherine Waterston as Ava

Dixie Egerickx as Lea

Famke Janssen as Hanni

Thomasin McKenzie as Ettie

Finn Wolfhard as Julian

Timothee Chalamet as Victor

Aisling Franciosi as Marianne

Vincent Cassel as The Beekeeper

Mathieu Amalric as Monsieur Alain

Marion Cotllard as Madame Claire

Isabelle Huppert as Sister Marie

Dafne Keen as The German Girl

Jean Dujardin as Dr. Girard

with August Diehl as The Hunter

and Terry Notary as The Heron (motion capture when applicable)

 

Synopis: In a fictional Holocaust narrative involving Jewish mythology, various characters of Jewish descent navigate western Europe in order to escape the clutches of the Nazi regime.

 

Plot Summary (just shy of 8K)

Spoiler
Spoiler

Germany, 1941. It is a quiet Sunday afternoon in the streets of Berlin. Hanni (Famke Janssen), a black-haired woman, walks with her daughter Lea (Bella Ramsey), appearing from the corner of a city block and walking hurriedly to a store. Their clothes are brown and baggy, fitted to conceal as much of their identity as possible. Hanni tells her to wait outside as she enters. Lea looks through the glass as she watches her mother shoplift an item.

 

A Nazi soldier appears and calls out to Lea. She stands still for a fleeting moment, hoping to pass by as a regular citizen. But the Nazi soldier stomps toward her. Lea finds it best to run.

 

She runs into an alleyway. Dead end. The Nazi enters the alleyway and points a gun at her, refusing to give Lea the chance to refute the idea that she’s Jewish. But the Nazi tells her she’s beautiful and says he knows what can be done in exchange for letting her go free. He uses his body to pin Lea against the wall and begins taking off clothing items.

 

Lea looks from the corner of her eye and sees an angel with black wings. She knows this angel as Azrael—in Jewish mythology, this is the angel of death. Suddenly, the bang of a gunshot is followed by the Nazi slumping to the ground, a pool of blood expanding underneath his body. Hanni has snuck into the alleyway, plucked the gun from the holster, and defended her daughter. Hanni throws the gun onto the Nazi’s body, and they run out of the alleyway and onto the sidewalk. The blood on the soles of their feet leave footprints on the sidewalk, but with each of their steps, the footprints dissipate.

 

They make it back to an apartment building where many Jews live. Hanni consoles her daughter, who asks her why she did it. Hanni tells her to remember a story of a wolf, one that symbolizes survival and defending loved ones. Lea goes off to aid other Jews, so Hanni sneaks to the room of her bedridden mother Bobeshi. Hanni tells her that the Jews no longer have a life in Germany—they’ve been reduced to scavengers at best and sitting ducks at worst. The bedridden mother tries to be optimistic. Hanni glances at the window. The sky is blue. She tells her mother she will honor her no matter what—as that is the fifth commandment.

 

Hanni looks through drawers and gathers necessary items. She takes these items and sneaks to a rabbi’s estate in the dead of night. Knocking on the door, a young woman named Ettie (Thomasin McKenzie) opens the door. Hanni presents one of her items: a stunning necklace. This is proof she’s able to pay for what she’s going to ask for.

 

Ettie, the rabbi’s daughter, is careful not to wake up the others in the estate. They have a private conversation in the house. Hanni tells her that she wants a golem to be created for her daughter, Lea. In Jewish mythology, a golem is an soulless, artificial human-like creature that can be created by a Jewish magician. The golem has no free will and must follow the orders of its master. Hanni wants one because she wants Lea to escape Berlin before it’s too late, and the golem can be commanded to protect Lea at all costs as well as to disguise itself as Lea’s cousin.

 

Ettie says that the rabbi will not do it—but she, herself will do it. In exchange, she wants the necklace. She knows intuitively that Hanni is smart enough to have something else to pay for the two fake passports for Lea and the golem; Ettie wants the necklace to pay for two fake passports for herself and her sister. Hanni asks Ettie why. Ettie says, succinctly, that she wants to live.

 

Early in the morning, as the dawn draws pink streaks in the sky, Ettie draws letters and circles on the ground in an outside location. The camera does not capture drawing, so as not to offend God; in other words, the camera stays on Hanni and Ettie. The two women talk about the logistics of creating a golem, confirming to each other that once a golem fulfills its purpose, it must die—Lea must erase a certain letter on the body of the golem, so that the word emet (‘truth’) becomes met (‘dead’). To Ettie’s bewilderment, Hanni insists that the golem be female. Traditionally, golems were male. But Ettie complies and makes the necessary arrangements.

 

Ettie: Let us begin.

 

Cut forward in time to an extreme close up: the black-pupil eyes of Ava (Katherine Waterston) open and look around. She is lying in the mold where Ettie had drawn her numbers and circles. She scrunches the mud she once was; then she looks at her hands and recognizes that she is alive. Hanni walks to her, hands her a change of clothes, and asks her to do exactly as she says, as well as love Lea as a mother would love her daughter. Ettie sweats bullets; she walks away to catch her breath, relieved the deed worked.

 

We cut to Ava looking around as Hanni leads her through the apartments. Hanni introduces Ava to Lea and tells her that she must leave on a train to Paris, France with Ava. There is a Jewish family with distant cousinship that can take in Ava and Lea, even for a brief time. She gives Lea a pendant necklace with directions regarding Ava inside of it; she can only open the pendant when she is in a safe place, truly away from the Nazis. Hanni explains that she cannot take Lea to Paris herself because she must honor her mother according to the fifth commandment. Lea is very reluctant to go with Ava, but Hanni tells Lea to honor her and says that, no matter what happens, they will always dwell inside each other’s hearts. Ava stares stone-faced during all this.

 

We cut to the day they’re boarding the train; just outside the apartment building, Lea and Hanni embrace each other for the last time. Ava takes Lea by the hand and stares into Hanni’s eyes. The looks they give each other express a thousand words. Ava takes Lea away while Hanni watches.

 

While Lea and Ava are in line waiting to board the train, Lea tells Ava that she doesn’t want her protection; Ava states that she must protect her, as Hanni commanded her to be a protector. That is the most important direction given to her by Hanni. Ettie hurries toward the train with her sister; the sister is worried about the validity of their passports, because the forger made their passports hastily, but Ettie tells her to shut up and says they have to trust each other. Their passports are okayed miraculously, and they get in line to board; Ava notices Ettie (her physical creator) from the corner of her eye, but she pretends not to have seen her.

 

Cut to the window of the train as grassy fields pass by. Ava looks down at Lea, who’s crying because she isn’t sure if she’ll ever see her mother again. Ava attempts to wipe away some of Lea’s tears, but Lea swats her hand away. Ava then coldly tells Lea to stop crying because she doesn’t want her cover to be blown. Ettie notices Ava and Lea from a booth other side of the train. Her sister asks her if she knows them. Ettie deflects and asks, “doesn’t she have nice hair?”

 

The train continues forward for a time until it stops at a Nazi-mandated checkpoint. Outside, Jews are being rounded up by the Nazis. Nazi soldiers board their car and start examining passports. Lea prepares the forged passports while Lea looks outside and notices Azrael flying in the air. Ettie and her sister take out their passports, but Ettie gulps. The blue ink is smudged, and the paper is useless. Ettie and the sister exchange nervous glances. Ettie then takes her sister by the hand and walks in the opposite direction of the Nazi. She asks a train operator if they can “walk outside to get some fresh air.” The train conductor stares at them for a moment before silently waving them forth. The sisters step out of the train and immediately book it toward the woods. Nazis shout in German, a gunshot is fired, and Ettie’s sister falls down, but Ettie has no choice to run by herself.

 

Ava notices the trouble and opens her window. She looks to the sky and speaks a language undiscernible by the ears of man. Then birds attack the Nazi who struck Ettie’s sister, allowing Ettie to escape. Lea looks at Ava with amazement—“I think I know what you are,” she whispers. Ava glances at Lea and looks off. The train’s wheels spin and spin and spin and spin and spin…

 

Ettie hurries through the forest. When she knows she is safe, she stops at a tree to catch her breath. She cries and screams, but the voice is made silent by the film’s edit.

 

We cut to a housekeeper (Aisling Franciosi) as she packs a bag of clothes during the night. Her scene is a sequence of shots in which she leaves the house she’d been keeping. She is reluctant to go, but she must. She travels a long distance to a secluded house in the tree-covered hills. The owner of the house, a beekeeper (Vincent Cassel), opens the front door and sees her. The girl shouts “father” and runs to him. They embrace. “Welcome home, Marianne.”

 

Madame Claire Leví (Marion Cotillard) scours her house (which has paintings and bookshelves in it). She alerts her husband Monsieur Alain Leví (Mathieu Amalric), who’s working at his desk, that the housekeeper is missing. Someone knocks at the door; they open it and see Lea and Ava. (This means the current location is Paris.) Lea makes the distant cousinship claim and asks for refuge. Madame Claire urges Monsieur Alain to refuse, but Ava states that she’ll be able to help them with anything they need. The couple shoot each other a look.

 

The couple introduces Lea and Ava to their two sons, Julian (Finn Wolfhard) and Victor (Timothée Chalamet) and tell them the two woman will be staying with them for a while. Julian is happy to have visitors, while Victor has a more cynical attitude. The parents state that Ava will be helping them with the house in Marianne’s absence. Victor accuses them of “forgetting Marianne without trying to look for her.” Madame Claire states that Marianne might come back, and if so, they’ll let her back in with open arms. Victor storms away angrily.

 

Julian introduces himself to Lea and takes it upon himself to show her around Paris. Ava deems it necessary to stay and keep the house well in order to validate their refuge to Madame Claire.

 

Julian and Lea have fun time together in the markets and squares of Paris, which is shown through an extended montage. Lea feels free until she sees Nazi soldiers patrolling and mistreating people. Julian protects Lea because she’s frightened.

 

In the house’s backyard, Ava puts clothes on a clothesline when she looks up at the sky and notices a heron (CGI). She drops everything, leaps over the fence, and sprints in the direction that the heron flew. She finds herself at a secluded lake and sees the heron (motion capture by Terry Notary when applicable) in the middle of the lake. Its feathers are silver, and it is as tall as a human. In a trance, Ava kicks off her shoes and enters the shallow part of the lake. The heron walks to her. They gaze into each other’s eyes; Alexandre Desplat’s score swells, and they dance with one another. The camera flows gently, capturing their dance with a long-sized shot. Ava splashes water; her dancing exudes radiance.

 

We cut from an establishing shot of the dancing to a shot zooming toward Ettie’s back; she’s scrubbing dishes in a restaurant. The owner brings her more dishes and tells her to keep up the good work. There’s one shot of her laying down with her eyes open at night. Then the next day, she tells the restaurant owner she’s leaving, stating she cannot stay in one place at the same time. We have a montage of shots in which she travels from that village to another village. She finds a villager willing to house her for a night and introduces herself as “Nicole Duval.” She sits alone in the cottage tearfully; the villager asks her what’s wrong, and Ettie tells them a monologue.

 

Ettie: All I ask for now is someone to listen. From this day forth, I am a gentile. And as a gentile, I shall divorce myself from everything holding me back. I will fight, and I will avenge.

 

 The villager tells her they’ll forget she heard that. Ettie stares down in silence.

 

“You’re leaving?!” Madame Claire shouts as Victor gathers his things. Victor explains that he refuses to stand and watch as the situation gets worse and worse. He storms out of the house. Madame Claire calls out, but Monsieur Alain consoles her, saying Victor’s made up his mind.

 

Julian talks to Lea about Victor. He talks about Victor’s strong personality and the relationship he has with him—if only to cope with Victor leaving them. Lea says she can relate to parting with family members, as she had to say goodbye to her mother. Julian and Lea’s bond deepens.

 

Lea and Ava spend many days with the Leví family. Ava proves to be a natural at keeping a house together—she is especially good at cooking, as she understands the ingredients on a deeper level than humans do. The Monsieur continues his work while the Madame smokes cigarettes and worries about the Nazis marching right outside her window. They make do with one another…

 

…Until one night, when Ava walks out into the backyard. She looks out. We cut to an image of the heron, standing sullenly in front of a tree.

 

Cut to Ava storming into the house. She tells Lea (and by extension the Leví family) that they need to leave immediately. Lea is reluctant to leave—but Ava will not take know for an answer. Lea runs out into the backyard and cries. Then, she hears Hanni’s voice from within her mind. Hanni says, through voice-over, that Ava is her connection with Lea, and that she must do what Ava says. She tells Lea to remember her story of the wolf, and to remember that she will always be with her. Julian appears and asks her what’s going on; she tells him that she’s going with Ava.

 

Julian declares that he wants to go with her. He goes inside to pack his things. But his mother, the Madame, forbids him from going in a tearful monologue, saying that it was enough for her to lose Victor and that Julian needs to think about what he’d do his parents if he left with Lea.

 

Julian says goodbye to Lea while Ava stares stone-faced at their interaction. Lea promises to survive and makes Julian promise her that he will survive too. They vow to keep these promises.

 

We cut to a montage of images fading in and out as Ava leads Lea through the streets of Paris. They arrive at a Catholic convent for orphans run by the head nun Sister Marie (Isabelle Huppert), and they successfully convince Sister Marie that Lea is a Catholic orphan seeking asylum when Lea recites Catholic prayers word for word. Hanni had taught her how to do that, of course. Ava is introduced to the other nuns, while Lea becomes acquainted with a German Girl (Dafne Keen) who remains closed off from everyone except her.

 

Alone in her room while the other girls sleep, Lea opens the pendant Hanni gave her and reads about Ava, confirming her suspicions. She memorizes the contents and tears the letter quietly…

 

Time passes by, and Ettie seeks out members of a resistance group. She finds a boy around her age who asks her to put on a blindfold and get in a passenger seat of a car. During the nighttime drive, the driver tells her to take off the blindfold. She does and sees that Victor’s driving the car. He introduces herself as Victor, and Ettie introduces herself as Nicole Duval. Victor tells her to use her real name—they need to trust each other. “Ettie,” she says. Victor says that she’s going to the hideout of his small resistance party. There’s a few guys around their age as well as a girl named Beatrice. Ettie asks if there’s guns where they’re going—she wants to learn how to use one. “Are you sure?” Victor asks. “Once you learn how to fire a gun, there’s no going back.”

 

They make it to the hideout. Ettie meets everyone and introduces herself. Days pass by as she interacts with them. She proves herself especially talented at catching fish—Beatrice remarks that the fish seem to swim right into her hands. The four guys leave to go on a mission, but Victor tells her that when they get back, he’ll teach her how to shoot a gun.

 

Ettie and Beatrice keep the hideout secure, hunting and fishing to their content, and on one of the nights, Ettie ruminates about Queen Esther and about how she saved the lives of many Jews. One night, a car drives to the hideout. It’s one of the guys, who reports about a mistimed grenade explosion from when they tried to blow up Nazi vehicles. One of the boys is dead, and another is taking care of Victor, as he’s suffering from burns from the explosion. In any case, this driver fears that the hideout may be compromised. Ettie abandons the hideout with the others.

 

Cut to the convent, where Lea tells Ava to teach her a little bit about talking to birds. Ava tells her that it’s impossible for humans to talk to birds. Lea says that she wanted to know because she wants ask the silver heron to do something. Ava asks her what she has in mind. Julian kicks dust in the backyard when the silver heron perches on the fence. The heron gives Julian a letter from Lea, and Julian nervously hands him the letter he’s written for Lea. The heron stares at Julian with its red eyes before flying back to the convent.

 

We cut to a montage where Julian’s living his life with Monsieur Alain and Madame Claire while Lea lives her life in the convent, learning about the nuns and getting to know the other German Girl. Lea is even able to catch glimpses of Ava and the Heron dancing together in the courtyard of the convent while no one else notices. Ava also cooks for the girls, and her skills rival that of a baker who’s somewhat heavy set and has worked at the convent for years.

 

One day in the courtyard, Lea notices that the heron hasn’t shown up for a while and asks Ava where it’s gone. Ava tells her that it migrated south to Africa—but that it will return soon. Lea is upset that she can’t send anymore letters to Julian for a while, but Ava consoles her by saying she’ll be able to send letters again soon. Ava stares into the sky and frowns.

 

Another day, Julian and his family are told to walk with a group of Nazis toward a stadium. They comply and enter the stadium—but the stadium starts to fill up with Jews, and they notice that they might be in trouble. The talk to a nearby Nazi and tell they must be in there by mistake because they aren’t refugees—there’s Parisian citizens. But people aren’t being trapped in the stadium because they’re refugees. They’re being trapped in the stadium because they’re Jewish. And they’ve figured that out too late.

 

The parents offer the Nazi a nice watch to at least get Julian out of the stadium. The Nazi takes the watch, grabs Julian, and orders him to walk backward into the crowd that’s pouring into the stadium. Julian is distraught as he does it—the camera’s buttery smooth as it watches Julian walking backward through the crowd—but he manages to gets away from the stadium.

 

On a nearby rooftop, he looks down at the stadium to try and see his parents. Now, the stadium is filled with people who have been trapped inside by the Nazis. Monsieur Alain perhaps sees Julien in the corner of his eye but chooses not to look in that direction. Madame Claire, a small dot in the center of the frame, wobbles madly through the stands to find herself some shade. Julian cries as he walks through the streets of Paris—much more desolate and lifeless than they once were—and he notices a young man who is perhaps familiar to him.

 

Julian runs to the young man, who asks him if he is Julian Leví. Victor has sent one of his resistance friends to find Julien and escort him out of Paris. Julian smiles at the thought that his brother might be alive.

 

Time passes by, and the resistance member brings Julian to the farmhouse of the housekeeper Marianne and her father, the beekeeper. Julian is happy to see Marianne and glad to meet the beekeeper. Then he sees a bandaged Victor sitting on a bed, staring at him with a smile. They embrace one another. Julian asks Victor what happened to his face. Victor says he was struck by his team’s own grenade—he asks Julien if he wants to see, and he uncovers his face, revealing a considerable burn scar. We cut to the characters outside the house as Victor tells Julian he has to go back and fight more of the Nazis for the resistance. Julian wants to go with Victor, but Victor wants him to stay at Marianne’s house and her father, the beekeeper. Victor and Marianne kiss, and Marianne gazes passionately as Victor leaves with the other resistance member.

 

In the convent, the baker sweeps in the courtyard and notices Lea and the German Girl speaking to one another in German. Sister Marie than calls to him, wanting to talk to him in the office.

 

In the office, Sister Marie basically tells the baker that the convent needs to lay him off because the convent doesn’t have the resources to pay him. The baker criticizes Sister Marie because, right there in her office, there’s items that are not exactly cheap, such as pens, bookshelves, and the like. Sister Marie lovingly tells the baker that, when the convent has more funds, he’s more than welcome to come back. But the baker stares into space. And Sister Marie peers into him.

 

The baker walks out of the front door. Sister Marie watches him from the window of her office. The baker turns around to look at the office, and the expression on his face can only be described as pure greed. Sister Marie hurries down and tells all of the nuns and all of the orphans that they need to leave immediately. They go in groups; Lea, of course, goes with Ava. Sister Marie volunteers to stay behind at the convent. Everyone else leaves toward the French countryside, and the Nazis walk into the convent. There’s a brief, harsh scene in Sister Marie’s office where the Nazis open a file and read Sister Marie’s Jewish ancestral history as if it’s a criminal record. Sister Marie stares stoically as the “charges” are spoken.

 

Lea and Ava hide in the woods together. They drift away from the other convent escapees at Ava’s urging. Cut to Ava halting; Lea looks up at her and sees that Ava is basking in the sunlight, closing her eyes, moving her lips to silently speak—perhaps, she is talking to God. Lea wanders off as Ava worships on her own. Lea collects fallen lumber for firewood, but she suddenly stops and stares at a wolf. She can tell from a distance that the wolf is female. They stare at each other for a time, before the wolf loses interest, looks away, and darts off.

 

Lea and Ava, having found a small cave, make a fire and warm themselves. Lea stares into the fire as its embers dance. She hears Hanni’s voice inside her head—but Hanni is now telling her that her heart and Ava’s heart are now the only places where she exists on earth. We see hazy images of Hanni suffering in a death camp. Hanni tells her she will always be with her before her voice fades away. Lea begins to cry. Ava holds her tightly. But she is amazed by the love she feels. She looks down at Lea, whose head is firmly wrapped around Ava’s waist. She stares into space. Tears stream down her face, though she doesn’t realize the tears are falling down.

 

Time passes; Lea and Ava wake up in the cave when the heron descends from the sky. Ava runs toward the heron, and they stare at one another happily. Lea sees them from the cave and quickly jots down a message for Julian.

 

Lea’s message is expressed in a voice-over during a montage of shots where Julian helps Marianne and her father. Julian’s reply to Lea follows hers during the same montage. In the montage, Julian helps Marianne and her father collect honey from the bees—they all where protective gear while they collect the honey. Then they’re just plain living together and having a good time. Julian describes this and explains that Marianne has been leading groups of refugees to the French-Swiss border on a regular basis, so she’s traveling from the house quite often. Julien tells Lea he is happy she’s alive and that she wishes to see her soon.

 

At a time when Marianne is away, the beekeeper, who’s been teaching Julian how to survive and fend for himself, tells him to go down to a creek to fetch water. He does this, but upon his return, he sees Nazi vehicles park in front of the house. He hides in the foliage and waits for them to leave. When they leave, Julian rushes into the house and finds the beekeeper’s body hanging by its neck. He is dead. Julian buries the beekeeper near the house. He sits alone in the house, shaking because he doesn’t know what to do.

 

Then he remembers the beekeeper’s words—brief, one shot flashback of Julian’s POV where the beekeeper tells him, “if anything happens to me, there’s something I hid in a place no one will think to look. Find it, and it will help you survive.” So Julian searches the house, all its nooks and all its crannies, to try and find this object. Then he has an epiphany. He goes out to where the bees are kept and reaches into the hive. He gets stung a little bit, but smiles off the pain. Soon enough, he reaches out a bundled paper—it’s a makeshift map of Jewish safe zones in the French countryside. He packs a bag and walks off, thinking it’s better to go than to stay.

 

Cut to a pair of binoculars’ view of a Nazi hideout. Victor explains to Ettie, who’s looking through the binoculars, that high-ranking Nazis stole this two-story house to use as a base. Ettie sees various Nazi officers interacting with one another—and then she looks into an upstairs bedroom window, where a specific general is taking women’s clothing from the drawers and throwing it on the bed with the intention to use the clothing to serve himself. He is their target.

 

Ettie lowers the binoculars as Victor explains the resistance group is waiting to secure a sniper rifle and a reliable getaway vehicle before they go through with assassinating the general. But in the meantime, Victor wants Ettie to split up from the group and find a nearby refuge. Ettie asks him why. He tells her that he wants her to be the one that fires the gun. Ettie is pleased, but she asks why it would be her out of all the other resistance members. Victor tells her that out of everyone in his (albeit small) resistance, she is the one who has the very least to lose. Furthermore, she’s a great shot. Ettie looks down and smiles.

 

Dr. Girard (Jean Dujardin), a doctor treating patients in his country home, says farewell to a group of people as they walk out. Then he looks up at the hill and notices Ettie walking toward his house. We ellipsis-cut to Dr. Girard letting Ettie inside, saying it’s a pleasure to have her in there. Ettie cuts to the chase, if she must be turned away, let it be so—but she needs asylum. Dr. Girard’s expression exudes understanding; he says that everyone who seeks him out primarily seeks him out for his services as a doctor, and that he hasn’t had to house a refugee yet—he admits he’s surprised it’s taken that long. Time moves forward rapidly as we cut to a montage of moments where Ettie and Dr. Girard get to know one another. During the montage of moments, Dr. Girard tells her about his wife, Sarah, who passed away before the war broke out. The doctor lets Ettie try on some of his wife’s old dresses—“it’s no good if they sit in the closet unworn.”

 

Their rapport gets to the point where Dr. Girard adores Ettie as the daughter he never had. One night, Ettie has an unconventional favor to ask of the doctor. She asks him if they can have intercourse. Dr. Girard initially refuses and asks her why she would suggest that. Ettie clarifies that it’s not like she loves him like *that*. She wants this for a selfish reason: she doesn’t say she thinks she might die in the assassination attempt, but she does say she wants know what it means to experience intercourse with an honorable man. Dr. Girard thinks to himself in his kitchen, his hands clasping his forehead, unsure of what to do. He makes up his mind and walks to the room. Ettie stares at him expectantly. Cut to the hallway as he waits for a moment and closes the door.

 

Cut to Julian in someone’s house as he scrubs the floor with a towel. The owner of the house walks up and tells him that he needs to leave and that they’re sure he understands. Cut to Julian walking away from the house of a couple that gave him refuge, even if for a brief period of time. As he travels through the French countryside, he reads a map and finds a place he wants to go. After a few shots of him travelling, he finds a shelter for Jewish children. The volunteers running the shelter assure him that this shelter has been sanctioned by the French government as a safe space for Jewish children. Julian is very happy to meet other children—this includes people who are around his age as well. He is also happy to discover that they’re able to do activities such as “arts & crafts” and growing flowers in the backyard’s garden. We cut to another montage of moments as Julian eats good meals with the others and even leaps from a cliff to a lake at its bottom. He breaks through the water’s surface and laughs with the other kids.

 

We cut to the dinner after they went cliff-jumping into the lake. The others at his table ask Julian if he’s feeling okay. Julian vomits on the floor next to him. The kids gasp. One of the boys he’d been cliff-jumping with if he swallowed the water in the lake. Julian, now obviously sick, says he swallowed some by accident. The boy says there’s bad bacteria in the water, but if he goes to rest it off, he should be fine in the morning. Julian offers to clean up his own vomit, but the volunteers assure him they’re handling it, so Julian exits to the second floor to rest.

 

Cut to Julian resting in his room late at night. He hears screaming coming from outside. He peers through the window blinds and stares aghast. The volunteers are arguing with a Nazi as soldiers are tossing children into a massive truck as if they’re hay barrels. Julian thinks to himself. He opens the door of his room and sees that a few soldiers are walking into other rooms and taking other kids by force. He notices that across the room is an open window. He sprints down the hallway and jumps out of the window, falling down toward the backyard and breaking something when he lands. He winces—but he knows better than to make a sound. He crawls desperately toward bushes and hides in them. He hides just in time and watches as two Nazi soldiers enter the backyard, walk to the other side of the garden, and pee on flowers the children had grown.

 

Nazi #1: I still can’t believe it: the French prime minister declared it a courtesy to send children to be with their parents in Auschwitz!

Nazi #2: Ha! These bastards deserve what’s coming to them.

 

Julian waits until the Nazis leave. He hobbles to the brick fence, climbs over it, and runs away.

 

We fade to Lea and Ava discovering the beekeeper’s house—they see that it’s abandoned and decide to hunker down. Lea finds food items they to cook. Ava cooks and accidentally burns herself, but Lea must tell her to pull her hand away because she can’t feel the pain; Ava sees that her left hand has become the color of terracotta, and that it’s melting. Ava goes to the creek and stoops down to run her hand through the water. The heron glide in, lands, and stands behind her to watch. She tells the heron a monologue about how he is not bound to the earth, and that he is lucky to not be bound to the earth—but that she, herself, is bound to the earth. She walks to the shore while the heron cranes its neck in empathy, stepping toward her and hesitating. She scoops mud to her and shapes it into a hand, saying she’ll never know what it means to be flesh and blood, and she’ll never know what it means to have free will, but she nonetheless thanks God because she exists, even if only for a moment. The mud forms into a hand—good as new.

 

Later that night, Ava situates things inside of the house and looks outside a window at exactly the right moment. She sees Lea running out of the wooded area. At first, she smiles in a motherly fashion—but something isn’t right, so the squints her eyes. There’s a swarm of small dots swirling around Lea maliciously. Ava figures out what’s happening. She grabs a tablecloth, runs to Lea, lashes the cloth, and command the bees to flee with her undiscernible language. The bees fly off, but Lea falls to the ground unconscious. Ava rushes to Lea, telling her to wake up and stay with her. Then Azrael is seen hovering above them, his body outlined by the palpable moonlight. Ava detects the angel, stands between him and the girl, stamps the earth, and shouts:

 

“NO!”

 

Azrael gawks. Ava grits her teeth, her expression akin to a snarling wolf. Azrael stares through the darkness of his hood; he then shuts his book and holds it at his side, as if to give Lea permission to live. Ava, not taking her eyes off the hovering angel, picks up Lea and darts off.

 

Ava runs through the forest, carrying Lea as she sprints in no certain direction. Hanni speaks to Lea through voice-overs as Ava runs as fast as she can. She miraculously makes to no other place than Dr. Girard’s house, where Dr. Girard quickly begins to treat Lea. Ettie sees Ava from the far side of a hall—Ava locks eyes with her, so Ettie hides behind the corner and clasps her mouth. In the doctor’s operation, Julian is lying down on the 2nd cot, recovering from his fall at the children’s shelter, and he sees the condition Lea is in. He struggles to reach her dangling hand and grabs it, telling Lea that she made a promise to survive and that she has to survive. Ava watches stone-faced as Dr. Girard treats Lea.

 

A handful of glistening nature shots fade in and out of each other.

 

Cut to Lea sleeping soundly on the cot. Dr. Girard tells Ava that it’s a guarantee Lea will live. He also remarks on how improbable it is for Lea to have survived an attack by a swarm of bees, let alone made it all the way to his house in such a critical condition. He also remarks on how rare of a coincidence it is that so many people under his roof seem to know each other—his patient, Julian, knows about both of them, and even Ettie seems to know about her. Ava loses interest in the conversation and walks out of the room. “Madame!” says the doctor—she does not return.

 

Ettie and Ava talk together in a private room of the doctor’s house. Ettie commends Ava for fulfilling her purpose thus far. Ava commends her for giving her life. Ettie buries her hands in her face, deducing that even though the declared herself a gentile, she supposes she really can’t ever escape from being a Jew. She says she wanted to be a scholar, and she wanted to be a teacher, but she simply can’t ever escape being a Jew.  Ava warns her that she sees two clear paths for her: one leading to life and one leading to death. Ettie wears a healthy grimace and says that she will choose the path that saves the lives of others, no matter what happens to her. Ava blesses Ettie. Ettie sheds tears.

 

Cut to Lea and Julian telling their stories of survival to each other in the operation room. Then they smile at each other and tell each other they’re thankful for the other’s survival. They hug.

 

A day or two passes, and Ettie’s reading a book when she looks out the window. She sees Victor standing on top of the hill. She shuts the book.

 

We cut to Ettie giving Dr. Girard a hug and telling her goodbye. Ettie says goodbye to the others as well. Ettie and Ava look at each other for one last time before she walks out the door. Julian says he has a gut feeling and walks out the front door—then he sees Victor on top of the hill right as Ettie is about to make it to him. Julian shouts out to his brother and tries to run—but his movement is still somewhat inhibited. Nevertheless, Victor sees him and meets him halfway. They hug each other, and Victor tells him to listen: he him to take Lea and go to Marianne’s house to wait for her to arrive—and he wants them to go with Marianne to the French-Swiss border. Julian asks Victor why he’s not going with them—he pleads that Victor come with him. Victor holds Julian’s head and states that he’s doing something with Ettie that can potentially save many lives and that he’ll cross the border to meet them if he survives. Julian says, “please, brother.” Victor says, “I’m sorry”—and shakes off Julian’s hand, disappearing over the hill.

 

Ettie aims the sniper rifle as her and Victor hide behind the same rock. We see the scope’s POV as Ettie aims at the general they’re targeting. Victor calmly tells her to take the shot whenever she’s ready. Ettie bites her lip. She fires. The bullet strikes and kills the general. The Nazis start shouting in German. Victor tells Ettie to abandon the gun as they scramble to flee. They run to their getaway car—Victor gets in the driver’s seat—and they drive away.

 

They get on the road, and for a moment, it seems like they might get away—but a Nazi vehicle sees them on the intersecting road in front of them. Victor drives as fast as possible. The Nazi vehicle swerves on the road to follow the getaway car. Victor tells Ettie to get the pistol. Ettie leans out of the window and fires the pistol, killing the Nazi in the shotgun seat—but a Nazi leans out of the backseat and shoots, striking Ettie near the shoulder and fatally wounding her. The Nazis shoot the getaway car’s back tires, and Victor swerves and crashes into a ditch.

 

The Nazis get out of their car and apprehend Victor—they drag him away as he kicks and screams. Ettie stares at the blue sky through the windshield. She smiles. She pulls out a device and pushes a button.

 

The car explodes.

 

The explosion can be seen from a distance.

 

Marianne hikes through the forest and sees the house from a distance. She sees Julian, waves, and hikes closer. We cut to Marianne greeting Julian and the others at the house. They tell her that they have something to tell her about Victor. Marianne perks up and asks them what they want to tell her. Ava tells her that Victor is dead. (She knows this because the heron saw it.) The news hits Marianne slowly. She turns away, walking in disbelief, and collapses to her knees, convulsing into a puddle of sadness. Julien and Lea stare at Marianne in sadness while Ava looks up at the sky. Cut to Julien wedging a wooden cross (with “Victor Leví” written on it) next to the beekeeper’s grave. They stare at the graves and mourn. Marianne gives a monologue, promising her father and lover that the forthcoming generations will know and understand the atrocities they were affected by—and that she will make sure their stories are remembered by the world.

 

We cut to a montage of moments in which Marianne leads Julien, Lea, and Ava through the woods and to the border. They help each other walk and help each other stay hidden. Ava looks up at the sky and is delighted that the heron is watching over them. During the montage, Hanni congratulates her daughter through voice-overs.

 

They reach the mountain path to the border and are about to cross when Ava’s eyes widen. She whips around. We see a shot of the forested area behind her. She knows that something is amiss. She runs in the direction of the trouble she intuitively knows about. Lea yells at her to wait, but Julian grabs her arm and tells her that they need to cross immediately. Lea turns to him, hesitates, and says, “there’s something I need to tell you.”

 

Ava sprints through the forest, knowing that something is amiss. A man’s voice shouts at her and tells her to stop. She looks and sees that a Nazi (August Diehl) is pointing a shotgun at her. She continues sprinting in spite of the Nazi’s shotgun. The Nazi, a hunter, tells her to stop one more time, but she continues to sprint, unfazed by the sight of the gun. The hunter fires and grazes Ava’s arm, but since Ava cannot bleed, she covers the wound and collapses, acting like the bullet did more damage than it did. Grains of dirt seep through her fingers.

 

The hunter smiles wickedly; he surmises that the woman “must be” one of the many “brainless Jews” he’s encountered. He saunters to a tree stump, sits down, and crosses his leg. Ava stares at the man in contempt. The hunter sarcastically asks her what it’s like serve her God, what it’s like to “manipulate the world” with “Jewish evil,” etc. He points to the tree limbs, saying he wants to show her something.

 

Ava looks up and stares in horror. The heron is hanging upside down, its feet tied to rope—dead. The hunter boasts that he did to the heron what he does to everything that is below them: he slaughters them. All of them. All the “sewer rats” that roam the earth—all the creatures in which he can gain something by killing them. As he saunters over to Ava, he asks her what she thinks about that. Ava sees Azrael, the angel of death, sitting on a tree limb, kicking his feet giddily, with his book open and quill at the ready. Ava stares at the hunter and does not answer the question. The hunter asks her the question a second time. She doesn’t answer him—just stares. The hunter says that if she doesn’t answer, he’ll shoot her. Again, she doesn’t answer. The hunter says he’ll count to three, and if she doesn’t answer, he’ll shoot. He counts to ‘one.’ Then he counts to ‘two.’

 

Abruptly cut away as a gunshot is fired—many birds fly out from the trees and into the sky.

 

There is a red wound in the hunter’s chest. He examines it and gasps. He looked down at his belt. The pistol is missing from his holster. He turns around. Lea has slipped the pistol out and defended Ava. With one hand covering the wound, he points the shotgun at Lea—but he falls down and dies before he can fire. Lea and Julian rush to help Ava up to her feet. Julian swallows at the sight of Ava’s wound, which has become an enclave of skin-colored dirt. Ava says that she Lea and Julien have to travel to the border immediately—and she tells Lea to erase the letter and change emet to met, effectively turning her to dust. Ava pulls the collar of her shirt, revealing the word emet on her chest. Lea cries—she doesn’t want to do this. Ava tells her it must be done.

 

The music swells. Julian and Lea hold each other as Lea reaches out her finger. Ava closes her eyes and accepts her fate. Lea looks away for a fleeting moment, but she looks at the word, knowing what must be done.

 

We see another extreme close up of Ava’s eyes as the score intensifies and tapers off. She opens her eyes. She looks around in confusion. Lea and Julian are nowhere to be found. She winces at a jolt of pain, something she’s never felt before. She feels her arm and looks down at her hand, and on the hand, she finds blood. Crimson blood. Human blood. She pulls her shirt and looks at her chest. She catches sight of the Hebrew word just before it dissipates: instead of changing the word to met, Lea had changed it to a word that means ‘love.’

 

The sun rays shine down on Ava. She looks around at her surroundings in awe. We see shots of the animals and birds in the forest, and all the trees whose leaves and branches sway. She smiles, stares at the sky, and rejoices, happy to be alive.

 

Fade to black.

 

Edited by SLAM!
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5 minutes ago, SLAM! said:

The World That We Knew

Studio: New Journey Pictures

Director: Luca Guadagnino

based on the novel of the same name by Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction

Target Y8 Release Date: November 15th

Budget: $42.5M

Runtime: 2 hr 03 min

Composer: Alexandre Desplat

 

*New Journey Pictures is hoping to utilize the festival screening to decide which MPAA rating the film should receive.*

 

Major Cast
Katherine Waterston as Ava

Dixie Egerickx as Lea

Famke Janssen as Hanni

Thomasin McKenzie as Ettie

Finn Wolfhard as Julian

Timothee Chalamet as Victor

Aisling Franciosi as Marianne

Vincent Cassel as The Beekeeper

Mathieu Amalric as Monsieur Alain

Marion Cotllard as Madame Claire

Isabelle Huppert as Sister Marie

Dafne Keen as The German Girl

Jean Dujardin as Dr. Girard

with August Diehl as The Hunter

and Terry Notary as The Heron (motion capture when applicable)

 

Synopis: In a fictional Holocaust narrative involving Jewish mythology, various characters of Jewish descent navigate western Europe in order to escape the clutches of the Nazi regime.

 

Plot Summary (just shy of 8K)

  Reveal hidden contents

 

Please label this as in-competition, or out of competition 

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SCREENING IN-COMPETITION

 

 

Dirty Hands

 

Genre: Drama/Thriller/Political

Cast: Carrie Coon (Alice Sorvino), Jeremy Strong (David Baum), Sterling K. Brown (Victor Harvey), Nicholas Hoult (Lawrence Gerrard), Raúl Esparza (Joshua), Mark Gatiss (Chester Kirkman), Cécile de France (Eva), Asia Kate Dillon (Charlie), Alexander Siddig (Afarwan Dessali), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Jacob Cooley), Steve Zahn (Jimmi Grasberg), Lyndie Greenwood (Yara), Timothy Simons (Carl), and Paul Giamatti (Senator Burns)

Written and Directed By: Dan Gilroy

Budget: $40 million

Running Time: 130 Minutes

MPAA Rating: R for violence, strong language, and some sexual content

 

Plot Summary (approx ~ 11.6k):

 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UZYKfEMdHoxzGQYwtlKDRI1IaK75DKBzfJifbvueKTs/edit?usp=sharing

Edited by 4815162342
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Screening Out-of-Competition...

 

Sandboy

 

Writer-Director: Benh Zeitlin
Genre: Fantasy/Drama
Major Cast:

Royal Patel as Bree
Azhy Robertson as Arthur
Purbi Joshi as Mom
Maulik Pancholy as Dad
 

Other roles are unknowns.

 

Runtime: 98 min
Production Budget: $10 million

Music by: Dan Romer and Behn Zeitlin
 

Plot Summary: During a global pandemic, a young girl spends the summer at a beach house with her family. However, the girl soon befriends a boy hidden within the sand, even as her parents’ relationship dissolves.

 

Plot (approx 4.7k words):

 

A child sits in the backseat of a car. She introduces herself in voice-over as Bree, a seven-year-old girl who loves her parents and adventures. However, she didn’t know she was about to start a really big adventure. Sun high in the sky, the car drives through lush greenery until it reaches the sea-side where there’s an isolated beach house. Her parents begin to unload the car, as Bree looks out to the sandy beach, hearing some laughter as some sand picks up from the wind.

Bree explores the beach house, which is small and cozy, with one bedroom on the first floor and a large attic with a bed in it. This is where Bree will be spending her summer, while her parents work downstairs. Bree runs downstairs and says that she loves the place and her parents look concerned, but put on a smile for her. Bree asks if they can take her to the beach, and Mom and Dad both say that they’re going to be a bit busy with work, but they can take her out later. Bree goes upstairs then to wait in her room, while we see both Mom and Dad get to work on their laptops, getting onto teleconferencing calls on separate laptops downstairs. With their headphones on, they can’t hear Bree playing upstairs loudly, pretending to be a pirate on her bed. Outside her window, some sand blows by, sounding vaguely like humming. The camera follows the sand from the window until it rests on the beach, beginning to sink in.

Bree comes downstairs within an hour and asks if she can go to the beach. Mom and Dad get off their computers for a second, and both say they can’t possibly go with her, they’ve got a big project they’re working on, and with everything going on in the world… Bree asks if she can just go explore alone. Mom is very against this, but Dad points out that there is literally no one within miles of them and when he was a kid, he would disappear for hours in the woods behind his grandmother’s house. Mom relents, but they make Bree promise to stay out of the water and close enough to the house to not get lost. Bree hugs them both and runs outside.

However, the area near the front of the house is sandy yet not exactly interesting. She quickly grows bored here too until she steps in some weirdly colored sand near the water. She hears a wince, and jumps back, as water comes in over the sand. As the top of the sand washes away, she sees a boy laying under the sand. She rushes to dig him out, but the boy sits up, laughing, asking Bree who she is and if she wants to see some caves. Bree asks who he is, and the boy reveals himself to be Arthur. Bree asks where he lives, and Arthur just tells her to follow him and he’ll explain on the way.

Arthur takes Bree down the beach, and Arthur says that he’s lived in the sand his whole life. Bree asks what that’s like, and Arthur clarifies that he lives in the sand in the water with his parents, but he’s been exploring this area for a while on his own while his parents send him out to have fun. Bree asks if his parents are busy, and Arthur says that they aren’t, they just want him to have fun. Bree finds this reassuring. They arrive at a large cave, and Bree looks behind her, seeing just an endless shoreline. She gets scared that she won’t be able to find her way home, but Arthur, with wind blowing off his hair, reassures her that he knows the way, but first they should check out the cave.

Inside the cave is a gorgeous waterfall that seems to stream upwards to a nest of bugs that seem to glow in the dark with every color. Bree gasps as Arthur dives into the water, and emerges quickly, smiling. He tells her to follow him, she knows how to swim, right? Bree nods yes and then jumps in the water. They swim up the waterfall to the nest of bugs, and Bree looks on in awe, as Arthur smiles when the bugs land in his hair, illuminating with neon colors beyond the rainbow. They goof around in the water a bit, splashing each other, and playing with the weird current of the reverse waterfall, as the neon bugs land on the walls of the cave, making a gorgeously magical colorscape to compliment their playing.

Later, Arthur, sand blowing off of his hair once more, leads her back home as the sun sets behind them. Bree talks about how cool it was, and Arthur is just glad he finally had someone to share that cave with. The beach house appears in the distance, and Bree thanks Arthur for the day’s fun. Arthur waves her good-bye with the sand beginning to fly off his hand. Seeing this, Arthur gives a wry smile, and jumps into the water nearby, dissolving quickly into sand which travels deeper into the water. Bree looks on in awe and then runs back to her house.

Bree walks into her mom screaming at her dad about Bree. Bee walks in quickly, and Mom immediately rushes to hug her, saying she was worried when she couldn’t find her. Bree apologizes, but Dad says that he would’ve done the same thing at her age, and asks about her adventure. Bree tries to talk but Mom cuts her off, telling Dad that he shouldn’t act like she was hysterical. Dad rolls his eyes at this and asks Bree if she wants pizza. Bree says yes, excited, and it’s suddenly dinner time with them passing around pizza. Bree asks them both how work was, and neither really wants to talk about it at all, clearly glaring at each other during their respective brief responses. When Mom asks Bree what she found, Bree tells them the story of the sandboy she met and the magical cave they went to, and both parents laugh at her story, telling her she’s so creative. Bree asks if her parents believe her, and of course, they say they do, while smiling.

The next day, Bree once again leaves her house to see Arthur laying under the sand. She jumps on the sand above him and he immediately emerges, telling her to knock it off, that actually hurt. Bree apologizes, still giggling, and Arthur can’t help but join in her laughter. Arthur leads Bree to find some tide pools down the beach. As they sit with their feet in the water, watching the starfish, anemones and urchins, Arthur asks her if she wants to jump in. Bree doesn’t understand, and Arthur stands over the tidal pool, asking her to jump in like he does. Arthur cannonballs in the tide pool, causing a huge splash, but appearing to submerge under the shallow sand. Bree closes her eyes, and follows him in the cannonball, sinking under the sand to land in an air pocket, where the starfish, anemones, and urchins form a moving ball to protect the air pocket. Once again, Bree looks agape at the sight Arthur has taken her to see, and Arthur too is staring in awe.

Arthur explains that his parents told him about this place, but he had never actually gone here before. Bree asks Arthur about his parents, and why they let him explore every day on his own. Arthur points out that Bree’s parents also let her go off and explore on her own, and Bree replies that her parents are busy with work and with each other, so they let her go out so that way she doesn’t distract them. Normally, she’s at summer camp right now but with things being what they are, that couldn’t happen this year. Arthur asks what summer camp is, and Bree says it’s a time to hang out with other kids. Arthur says that sounds fun, and Bree answers that it is, but she still wants to know about Arthur’s parents. Arthur sighs and says that he goes home to his parents every night; they live deep underwater in the sea, letting him explore above water during the day, like they did when they were kids. His parents told him he’d likely make a friend during this, and he’s glad he found a friend in Bree. Bree smiles, and holds his hand as they both jump up through the barrier of animals to return to looking in the tide pool.

As the sun sets, Bree heads back home. When she enters the house, she hears her parents arguing in the kitchen, and avoiding it, chooses to head upstairs. The film enters a rollicking score-only montage of the following few weeks of Bree’s summer. Every day she meets up with Arthur, and Arthur shows her something cool on the seemingly limitless beach around them. They explore the woods, swinging through trees like Tarzan, and fake sword-fighting on the branches. They take a canoe made of bark through the shallow water of the sea, Bree standing at the head of the boat while Arthur laughs in the back. When rain falls one day, Arthur looks on with pure astonishment, having never seen it before. However, this montage is also intercut with scenes at home for Bree, as her parents struggle to work from the beach house, and find the time they spend together to be driving them insane. Be it a board game night, a movie night, or a variety of dinners, it almost always ends with her parents shouting at each other. At points, Bree tries to stop it, and it works for the most part, but only for a few minutes until the parents are back at it again. Finally though, Bree makes it to July, and gets up early, running to the beach to wake up Arthur early, so they can finally watch the sunrise, with Arthur once again completely blown away for what the world has to offer. The dialogue begins again with Bree looking at the sun too, smiling, saying today is her birthday, and Arthur taking his eyes off the sunrise to say happy birthday back to her, hugging her.

Bree heads back to her house, to see her dad already up and making pancakes for her. Dad offers her her birthday breakfast, and Bree scarfs it down, excited. Dad tells her that with it being her birthday tonight, and the 4th of July this weekend, he’s gonna take her into town to get fireworks. Bree squeals with delight as Mom enters the room, saying happy birthday to Bree. Dad tells Mom his plans to take Bree into the town 20 minutes away, and Mom tells him to spend the day with Bree down there; she couldn’t get the day off from work. Dad agrees with this, and tells Mom to make sure to be done with work so they can all celebrate Bree’s birthday that night. Mom rolls her eyes and tells him not to be so condescending to her; of course she knows to do this.

Bree rides in the backseat of her dad’s car to go into town, and the two, wearing masks, quickly pick up the fireworks at the store, and then go to eat outside at a hot dog place. As they finish up lunch, Dad asks Bree if she wants to go to the park, and, thinking of Arthur, Bree asks if they can head back home. She’ll go play on the beach, and let Mom finish her work. Dad tries to push her to stay and find something to do here, but Bree won’t budge. Dad sighs and begins the drive back home. However, when they arrive home, Dad puts the fireworks in the garage as he enters with Bree. They soon discover Mom is nowhere to be found, and when Dad calls Mom, all he gets is her voicemail. Dad keeps trying to call her, when Bree sees a car pull up, and Mom exit, holding a birthday cake (and wearing a mask).

Bree goes out to hug her mom’s legs, welcoming her home and saying she was worried about her. Mom tells her that she shouldn’t worry, but then also says she has to set the cake inside. They do both head inside, and Dad eyes her suspiciously, asking why he didn’t tell him she was buying a cake; he was gonna make a cake that night. Mom says she wanted it to be a surprise and didn’t suspect it’d be an issue. Dad says he already started preparing the cake yesterday, and Mom says they’ll just have two cakes, and asks Bree if that will be okay. Bree nods her head yes, excited. Dad shakes his head, and asks Mom who was driving her. Mom looks a little ashamed and says that she had asked some friends to come drive her who were in the area. She needed a break from the house and to hang out with her friends for a bit. Dad says that he’s needed that too; he can’t stay cooped up all the time. Mom says that she’s not keeping him here, and Dad replies that she really is. Bree looks at the two of them beginning to argue and loudly sighs. The two stop for a second, and Mom tells Bree that she should go play on the beach right now, since she and Dad need to talk. Bree doesn’t take longer than a second to leave the house, and run down to the beach, where Arthur is resting under the sand.

Bree asks Arthur if his parents are around during the day, when he goes ashore to hang out with her. Arthur says that he believes they are, but doesn’t understand why she’s asking. Bree demands for him to take her to them. Arthur is extremely reluctant, and Bree says that she gets to pick the adventure on her own birthday, and she wants to meet Arthur’s parents. Arthur says it might be dangerous, which is all the better for Bree. They go to take their bark canoe, with Arthur propelling further and further into the sea. Bree looks around and cannot see anything but water from every direction. Arthur tells Bree she needs to hold onto him tight, and Bree asks if she’ll be okay. As long Bree trusts Arthur, it’ll be fine - and besides, she was told this might be dangerous. Bree nods her head, and holds onto Arthur as the two jump off the canoe and into the water.

Bree’s eyes widen as she is submerged in the water, surrounded by one of Arthur’s arms. The other arm is straight up towards the surface, as Arthur stares as small air bubbles quickly come down to surround Bree’s nose and mouth. As they go deeper, the bubbles around Bree get larger and larger, until they reach the bottom of the sea, which is naturally full of sand. Bree asks Arthur where his parents are, and Arthur stomps the sand. Immediately, two large boulders arise from the sand, with glowing indents that appear to be eyes. Arthur goes to hug these rocks, and introduces them to Bree as his parents. (At this letting go of Bree, Arthur is no longer dragging down air for Bree to breathe, and as such, the now large bubble around her head begins to slowly decrease as she takes in more and more air throughout the following conversation.)

The parents in unison say hello to Bree, and Bree is excited to meet them too, asking if this is what Arthur will become when he is older. The parents say they know not what Arthur will become, in the same way Bree’s parents could never guess who she will grow up to be. Bree tells them that she is worried about her parents. They argue a lot and she knows they love her, but she doesn’t think they love each other. Arthur solemnly looks to his parents, and tells them he knows they love him. Arthur’s parents say that they have raised Arthur to know that they love him very much. He need not fear that they would split or leave him, as they cannot move. Arthur can never worry them because of this, and the parents tell Bree they feel deep sorrow in knowing that a child is fearing their parents leaving each other, but also explain that if Arthur were to leave them, or if the two parents were somehow separated, that would never stop Arthur’s parents’ undying love for him. If what Bree says is true, her parents will love her no matter what they think of each other, and that is important. Bree says that she wants her parents to love each other too though, and asks them if there’s a way she can make that happen. Arthur’s parents are silent, and Bree begins to demand for them to explain to her. However, in her demands, she uses up what little is left of her air bubble, and in the middle of her demand, Arthur grabs her, saying goodbye to his parents.

He rockets upward through the water, holding Bree tight as Bree begins to panic, having run out of air to breathe. Breaching the surface of the water, Bree grabs the side of the canoe, as Arthur helps her board the vessel without capsizing it. With both now back on the canoe and catching their breaths, Bree thanks Arthur for taking her to see his parents. Arthur asks if she liked her birthday present, and Bree says she did, but she wants to know if he wants to do one more thing.

Arthur and Bree arrive back on shore, with Bree signaling Arthur to follow her. He follows her until he reaches the edge of the sand and the asphalt of Bree’s driveway, stopping suddenly. Bree looks at him and seeing his apprehension, tells him to wait here. She sneaks into the garage, and quickly finds matches in the garage. She grabs them and the fireworks her father left out. She then runs back to Arthur, handing them off to him. He asks what they are, and she answers that they’re rockets that explode with as many colors as the bugs they saw at the beginning of summer. Arthur looks on excited at them, and asks where they’re gonna use them. Bree tells him to wait, she also wants to share her cake with him. Arthur asks what cake is and Bree smiles widely at that.

Bree goes to her front door, sneaking in as quietly as possible. Unfortunately, her parents both sit quietly in the front room, seeing her walk in. Bree quickly forces a smile on her face, telling them she had an awesome birthday adventure outside. Mom smiles wearily at this, and Bree asks Dad if she can get out the cake Mom bought earlier. Dad wryly comments that it’s good she is asking for that cake, as he hasn’t had time yet to make the other cake. When Bree asks why, Mom and Dad both just force a smile and say that they’ve just been trying to make it so Bree has the best birthday ever. Bree sighs, not really believing them, but then forces on a smile as she follows them into the kitchen.

Outside the house, Arthur waits as the sun begins to set. As the wind picks up and sand begins to drift off him, Arthur puts the fireworks on the ground and begins to look at the matchbox. Having never seen one before, he takes out a match and reads the side of the box: “swipe match against box’s side to use.” Not understanding the purpose of the match, Arthur does so, and lights the match. Afraid of the fire, he quickly drops the match onto some brush beneath his feet, which quickly ignites. Arthur grabs the fireworks to protect them from the fire, as he begins to stomp it out quickly. Unfortunately, an ember gets onto one of the fireworks’ fuse, and Arthur, seeing the fuse begin to shrink, throws all the fireworks on the ground and runs away from it.

Inside, as Mom brings out the cake, the house is suddenly engulfed with the sound of the firework going off in rapid succession. Mom immediately places the cake on the table, and asks Dad if he knows what that was. Dad, concerned, runs out the front door to look around, followed by Mom and Bree. They see the fireworks, still firing, seemingly endlessly, with Arthur standing sheepishly behind them. However, when Arthur sees Bree, he waves to her, relieved to see her, and Bree waves back. Mom and Dad see this though, and Dad asks how she knows this boy. Bree says it’s the sandboy she’s been telling them about. Mom says that she thought she was talking about an imaginary friend, and Dad tells Bree that she was told not to talk to any strangers. Arthur begins to walk towards them, but immediately, Mom and Dad both turn around and tell Arthur to stay away. They don’t know him, and they can’t trust anyone they don’t know. As Arthur begins to cry, Bree tells her parents to calm down and Arthur is her friend, and Mom tells Bree they need to go inside. Mom tells Arthur to leave again as Dad picks up Bree against her will and begins to take her inside. Bree screams in anger, and then in horror when she sees (with her parents turned towards the house) Arthur slowly fade away into sand, being carried away by the wind.

Bree’s dad carries her up to bed, saying that they will eat the cake in the morning; right now, they really cannot deal with what they just saw. Before Bree has a chance to argue, her dad leaves her. As Bree sits down on her bed, somewhat stunned by how her friendship with Arthur may have just fallen apart forever, she hears her dad begin to yell at her mom, about how she should’ve watched Bree more before she ran off to play with a homeless kid everyday. Mom counters that this was Dad’s idea, and it’s his fault that Bree had so much freedom to get into danger.

The words quickly become indistinct, as Bree thinks more and more about her parents don’t love each other, and the only person who she can talk to right now about this is Arthur. She goes to the window of her room, quickly climbing out of it, standing on an overhang of her porch. She slides down the gutter, and runs to the beach, yelling for Arthur, begging him to come back. Inside, her mom goes up to check on her and discovers the window open and BRee nowhere to be found. Mom runs downstairs, and tells Dad Bree is gone. They both go out to search for her, yelling her name. Bree, hearing her parents yell for her, quickly searches for the canoe but to no avail. Left without a choice, Bree runs into the water, swimming deeper and deeper into the water, while yelling for Arthur, until she tires out, and begins to sink under the water.

Mom and Dad reach the precipice of the sea, but Bree is nowhere to be found. They both scream and call for her, fearing the worst. Underwater, Bree stares, looking panicked as she tries to swim up, but the surface is simply too far away for her. As her eyes begin to close, she sees a glowing bright pillar of sand, rushing towards her. From the parents’ perspective, something suddenly breaches the surface, flying high into the air. The sand forms into Arthur, who clings to Bree tightly, as they begin to fall, Arthur catching the wind so they drift back towards shore midair. Bree’s parents stare on with mouth agape.

Arthur looks over Bree’s unconscious body, and begins to cry, apologizing to her that he couldn’t save her. He hugs her limp body, as she suddenly begins to cough. Her eyes open and seeing Arthur hugging her, she hugs him back. Arthur’s tears turn to ones of joy, as Bree laughs, saying she knew she’d find him. Arthur apologizes that he got scared of her parents, and Bree says that she understands why they would do that. As Bree’s mom and dad approach the two of them, Bree tells Arthur to move, and then she confronts her parents. She tells them to leave her alone; all they want to do is take away the sole source of fun she’s had in the past month because they’re afraid. More though, they don’t even love each other, so how can she expect them to let her even have friends. She just wants them to leave her alone.

Mom and Dad look at each other, sheepishly. Mom says they were both so worried about her just now, and Bree replies that she’s been worried about them all summer. Mom and Dad look at each other again, and this time, Dad apologizes, saying that it wasn’t right of them to be getting at each other in front of Bree. Mom says that she may disagree with Dad on a lot of things, but they definitely both love Bree. Bree asks them if they’ll stop arguing all the time. Dad says that they can’t guarantee they won’t argue in front of Bree anymore, but they can try to do it less. “Far less,” Mom adds, also saying that they can’t really say what the future will be, but for now, they will not put this on Bree any longer. Dad says that it’s still Bree’s birthday, and they go inside for cake. Mom invites the sandboy to join them, and Bree introduces Arthur to them. 

As they head in the house (camera emphasizing the moment Arthur steps off the sand), Bree looks to Arthur, who is smiling widely. She looks to her parents, who look at each other with uneasy smiles, but then down to Bree with real ones. As the candles are lit, Bree blows them out, and the cake is cut and passed out, the film enters a final montage with the rollicking music, of the joy of the birthday and the rest of the summer. Arthur and Bree eat dinner with Bree’s parents a few times, as Arthur tries pizza for the first time. Bree returns with Arthur to visit his parents, both laughing with joy as the parents tell them stories of their own time as kids on the surface. Eventually Bree begins to narrate, as summer ends and her parents pack up the car, Bree hugging Arthur goodbye before they return to the city. As fall begins, wearing masks as Bree enters school, but when she leaves, a year or so has passed, the need for masks gone. Bree returns home to just her Dad, revealing that her parents divorced soon after that summer, but were certain to make sure Bree knew it wasn’t on her at all. Furthermore, they kept their own fears for the future and for life away from her, so she could grow up. And eventually Bree would grow up. The next summer, she returned to the beach house with her Mom, and no matter how far she looked, she could never find Arthur. However, she made new friends in the town, now populated with people ready to enjoy a healthy summer. The years go by and every summer, Bree returns to the beach house. Bree never saw Arthur again, although she could swear she heard his laugh every time the wind picked up on the beach. However, eventually time passes and Bree, as an adult, pulls into the beach house with her own wife and son in tow. As Bree and her spouse walk ahead into the house, the son hears the laugh of a young girl from the breezing sand. He asks if either of his mothers heard that, and Bree looks to the sand, and smiles.

SANDBOY

 

 

Edited by Blankments
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Screening In-Competition...

 

The Space Between Trees

 

An EssGeeKay Studios Film

 

Directed by: Debra Granik
Written by: Debra Granik and Katie Williams
Genre: Mystery/Crime Drama 

 

Major Cast:
Olivia DeJonge as Evie
Diana Silvers as Hadley Smith
Jack Reynor as Jonah Luks
Holly J Barrett as Elizabeth “Zabet” McCabe 
Zoe Perry as Evie’s Mom
Tina Majorino as Laura Grossman
Colin Ford as Anthony-Not-Tony
Ethan Cutkosky as Chad
Nicholas Hamilton as Garrett Murray
And Christopher Meloni as Ray McCabe

 

Unknown actors for remaining roles

 

MPAA Rating: R for suggestive content, language, drug and alcohol use involving teens, and graphic violent content
Runtime: 131 min
Production Budget: $6 million
Music by: Hildur Guðnadóttir
 

Plot Summary: Following the death of her estranged childhood friend, high schooler Evie tells a lie that can’t be untold, and gets tangled up in a web of secrets and tragedy helmed by the dead girl’s best friend. 

 

Plot (approx 9.8k words):  

 

On an early Spring Sunday morning before sunrise, Evie, a high school Junior, exits her secondhand sedan and prepares for her early morning paper route in the neighborhood near Hokepe Woods. She methodically delivers papers to each of the houses in the middle class neighborhood. As she walks, she listens carefully as a truck labelled Jefferson Animal Control parks beside her in the cul-de-sac. She quickly makes her way back to the truck and greets Jonah Luks, a college dropout who collects roadkill and dead wildlife in the neighborhood daily. Evie, clearly infatuated with the older man, chats with him as he grunts and responds shortly to her. She teases him by stealing his sled used for picking up animal corpses, which he promptly takes back from her. He heads out into the woods with the sled, and she listens to the sound of the treads on the soft dirt, matching her delivery pace to the sound. When she can no longer hear the sled, she continues her rounds but notices something off when she peeks around the corner of a house and sees Jonah speaking with a resident of the neighborhood. She watches him go inside the house and she ducks into a nearby shrub, surveying the scene. Soon, several sirened police vehicles surround the neighborhood, and Evie watches as Jonah leads policemen into the woods. She leaves the bush, seemingly to talk to Jonah but is cut off by the corner wheeling out a zipped up body bag from the forest. Jonah spots her and calls to her but she quickly runs away. 


Evie circles back around to the cul-de-sac and steals a toothed animal trap from Jonah’s truck, burying it in her paper satchel among the undelivered papers before driving home. Once home, she’s greeted by her mother, who acts neurotic and theatrical, and only responds to Evie’s presence when Evie asks her what’s wrong. Her mother tells her she was worried since she came home later than usual, and asks if she was with a friend or a boyfriend. Evie tells her she wasn’t, and the two sit in awkward silence and her mom sighs and looks distressed. Evie apologizes and her mother relaxes and acts less melodramatic. Evie excuses herself to her room and briefly inspects the trap, running her hand along it and whispering to herself “this is important.” She hides it in a shoebox in the bottom of her closet. 

Time passes and while Evie and her mother eat dinner in front of the TV, the phone rings in the kitchen. Her mother excuses herself, while Evie watches the news, but nothing about a body in the woods is mentioned. Her mother returns with two glasses of water and a tissue box and stages them on the coffee table in front of them just so. She turns the TV off, leaving Evie to look at her darkened reflection in the bulging box. Her mother sits and tells her she just spoke to her coworker Veronica. Evie again asks what’s wrong, and her mother tells her it’s Elizabeth McCabe. Evie corrects her, saying her name is Zabet to everyone. Her mother bristles slightly, then continues saying that Zabet has passed away. Evie asks if it was a car accident and if Zabet will have a tree planted for her out front of the school like two kids last year, but her mother tells her she’s been killed. Evie unconsciously smiles and asks if she was murdered. Her mother scolds her for thinking it’s funny. Evie apologizes and asks how she died, and her mother says she isn’t sure beyond getting murdered. Evie quickly puts it together with the body in the woods, and blurts out “I saw her.” Her mother asks when, and Evie quickly recovers, saying she saw Zabet at school the other week. She explains that she saw Zabet by her locker, one of the orange painted ones, and wonders if they’ll assign her locker to someone else now. Evie smiles again and asks if she was raped, then quickly hides it. Her mother is taken aback and scolds Evie, asking her why she would ever ask that. Evie apologizes again, saying she doesn’t know. 

Evie’s mom stands and brings the undrunk water glasses into the kitchen, washing them at the sink. Evie follows, saying it’s weird that Zabet is dead. She realizes her mother is crying, and in a tearful voice, her mother tells her she remembers when the two were little girls. She holds up the first clean glass to the light and puts it on the drying rack, then accidentally drops the second glass. 

The next day, Evie walks through the halls at school, watching everyone talk with their friends and joke before class starts. She enters her homeroom and sits in her seat before anyone else is there. Her teacher Mr. Denby tells her good morning and looks bad down at his desk, then Evie breaks the silence and says that she knows too. Confused, he asks her to elaborate, and she explains that she knows what he’ll have to announce to the class when it starts. He quietly tells her it will happen over the loudspeaker instead. The rest of the class files in and the speaker cackles to life. Over the speaker, the principal somberly tells the students that Elizabeth McCabe passed away on Sunday morning. After he finishes, the male students in Evie’s homeroom huddle and quietly joke and tell stories, while a few female students cry and comfort each other. The student next to Evie, named Nora, turns to her and says she has no idea who Elizabeth is, and asks if Evie knows her. Evie says yes, but they weren’t really friends. Nora disappointedly says “oh,” but Evie quickly corrects, stating that they were friends when they were younger. Nora asks what Elizabeth was like, and Evie thinks for a moment before saying that she hangs, or rather hung, out with Hadley Smith. Nora’s face scrunches up in distaste and she begins to turn away. Evie interjects again and says “there was this one time…” which catches Nora’s interest, and she tells a story of when Evie and Zabet’s class went to the nature center in third grade, and watched a woman dissect an owl pellet in front of them to make a mouse. She then pauses for dramatic effect before explaining that when she saw the skeleton, Zabet said “it’s all in there.” Nora asks her what happened next and Evie quietly says that’s the whole story. 

At home, Evie watches the news with her mom. The report says that Elizabeth McCabe was murdered in the woods and not planted there. She said goodnight to her mother at 11 PM on Saturday night then went upstairs to bed, and there were no signs of a break-in or foul play. Her mother thought she was still asleep until the police knocked on her door on Sunday morning. Evie’s mother wipes away tears, saying again that she remembers when Evie and Zabat were just little girls hanging out together. Evie remembers playing with Zabet (Elizabeth back then) when they were kids. 

In a flashback, Young Evie excitedly tells a story about a few weeks before her dad left where he and her mom were arguing in the kitchen. Her dad was standing by the dishrack and he grabbed a colander and threw it at her mom, but it bounced off her chest harmlessly. Then, he threw a metal ladle at her, but her mom caught it in mid-air just an inch from her face. Zabat delightedly demands that she tell it again, and outside in Hokepe Woods they reenact the scene. Evie throws the ladle at Zabet’s face without warning and Zabet catches it in mid-air. 

At school, Evie watches Hadley Smith at her locker, a “bad girl” who wears a slouchy sweater and Doc Martens with poorly bleached blonde hair. She’s surrounded by an entourage of other “bad girls” but she remains stoic. When she passes by Evie, Evie calls out to her but Hadley ignores her. Later in the cafeteria, Evie keeps watching Hadley from the condiment bar. Hadley approaches to get ketchup for her fries. Hadley notices her staring and confronts her. Evie tells her quietly “They didn’t really know her.” Hadley responds in kind “neither do you” and walks away, but Evie follows her. Enraged, Hadley walks the perimeter of the cafeteria, occasionally looking over her shoulder and glaring at Evie. Finally she stops and turns to Evie, hissing at her to please stop. Evie apologizes and Hadley storms off. 

Later in the week Evie and her classmates disembark from the bus in front of a church for Zabet’s funeral service. They seat themselves inside the church, where Evie briefly makes eye contact with Hadley. Evie stirs in her seat, and her classmate next to her asks if she’s okay. She says she feels sick and excuses herself. She half runs to the bathroom and throws up, then leans against the stall door. She rinses off then exits the bathroom to make her way back to the main chapel. She passes by a room that’s empty aside from some chairs and a man sitting by himself. She pokes her head in and asks if he’s there for the funeral, since it’s starting soon. He tells her he would rather not disrupt the service. Evie agrees and sits a few rows back from him. He introduces himself as Ray and asks her how she knew Elizabeth and she unthinkingly lies and says she was her best friend. He asks if she’s Hadley and she corrects him, telling him she’s Evie. He explains that he’s Elizabeth’s father. Evie backtracks and begins to explain that they weren’t really best friends, but he cuts her off and says he regrets not meeting Elizabeth’s friends. Evie tells him they know each other now. He tells her she should head back into the chapel and she asks if he’s coming, but he says he’d rather be alone. She turns to go, but stops and tells him Zabet thought he was a good dad, then assures him she’s telling the truth when he doubts her. He thanks her and she exits, going back to the bus instead of the chapel. 

At home the next week, Evie watches TV and her mom answers the ringing phone in the kitchen. She calls for Evie, saying it’s for her, looking confused and a bit concerned. Evie answers and Ray McCabe speaks to her on the other end. He invites her and Hadley to dinner at his condo. Evie asks if Hadley knows she was inviting, and Ray confusedly tells her yes and asks if that’s alright. Evie quickly but reluctantly says it’s fine and she’ll be there. 

Evie rides her bike to the condo and knocks on the door. Hadley answers and coldly lets her in. Ray enters and hugs Evie awkwardly but warmly, then leads Evie and Hadley into the kitchen, telling them he’s making spaghetti. Ray rambles about Elizabeth’s favorite foods and other things about her childhood while Evie dutifully and noncommittally agrees, clearly to Hadley’s discomfort, who remains speechless and disengaged from the conversation. The group heads to the table for dinner and Evie asks Hadley to pass her the bread. Hadley intentionally drops the basket but Evie catches it in time. Ray jokingly cries “watch out!” and Hadley softly repeats it to Evie. Ray compliments Evie’s reflexes and relates it to the time Elizabeth took tennis lessons. Hadley bursts out that Zabet threw her racket and Ray delightly remembers. Hadley’s demeanor changes and she sweetly asks Evie if she remembers that moment. Evie gawks awkwardly, unsure what to say, as Hadley prompts her about when it happened last Summer. Evie continues to flounder and forces out that Zabet threw the racket because she had a lot of spirit. Ray excitedly agrees, startling both girls. Hadley prompts Evie to tell her own story about Zabet, though Evie tries to shut her down, Ray softly agrees. 

Evie begins to tell a story and Hadley interrupts, asking her to be more specific about when it happens. Evie says it happened last year. Hadley interjects again, asking if they were friends last year, but Evie dodges the question and says they had a class together. Hadley asks which class, and Evie answers gym. Hadley quiets, and Evie continues, saying that Zabet was good in gym, even if she didn’t do any sports, because of her good reflexes. She says that in April, they had a swim unit, and everyone hated it because it meant going in the pool in the middle of the day, and at the end of the unit, they all have to go off the high dive. Evie stops, asking Hadley if she remembers the swim unit and how much Zabet hated it, but she doesn’t respond. Evie continues, saying that everyone hated the high dive because it’s so high, and a lot of kids are scared of it. She says that even though everyone expected her not to be, she could tell Zabet was scared of the high dive too. Hadley interrupts to say that Zabet wasn’t scared of heights, but Evie brushes it off, saying that it wasn’t the height that was scary, but the jump. She says that on the last day of the unit, Zabet didn’t change into her swimsuit and told the gym teacher she was on her period, but he didn’t care and told her to go back and change, which made her really upset. Zabet came out and the gym teacher told everyone that they don’t have to do a perfect dive or anything, they just have to try it. Everyone lined up behind Zabet, who climbed the ladder first, step by step like she wasn’t afraid of anything. Hadley interrupts, guessing she did a “perfect dive” off of it, and rolling her eyes. Evie looks at Hadley and tells her no, Zabet didn’t dive. She turned right around and stepped down. Hadley asks what the point of the story even was, but Ray cuts her off, thanking Evie for the story. Under her breath, Evie quietly tells Hadley the point is that Zabet survived. 

Later, Hadley sweetly says goodbye to Ray and thanks him for dinner and heads out. Evie works on getting her shoes on and Ray offers her leftover spaghetti. She thanks him and he thanks her in turn, calling her a good girl. Evie quickly excuses herself and tells him goodbye. Outside, Hadley sits on Evie’s bike. Hadley tells her it must be real exciting for her to be hanging out with a dead girl. Evie tells her that’s not it, and Hadley asks her why she’s doing this. When Evie asks her what she means, Hadley just repeats “this.” Evie stumbles through a response, saying she ran into Mr. McCabe at the funeral and that it was an accident. Hadley thinks for a moment, then tells Evie that Zabet’s face was beaten so badly she was unrecognizable. Evie responds that that’s awful, and Hadley mocks her. She steps off Evie’s bike and asks if she needs a ride home. Evie wordlessly gets into Hadley’s car. 

That Sunday, Evie delivers her newspapers and hears Jonah’s sled in the woods. She quickly moves back to the cul-de-sac and sits on Jonah’s truck. He emerges from the woods pulling his sled. He says hi to Evie as he loads up his truck, and she blurts out that she didn’t see him last week. Without pausing he tells her everyone needs a break now and then. He finishes up and tells her “see you next Sunday, kiddo,” and she steps down from the truck and blurts out “she’s dead.” Jonah pulls her into his arms suddenly, hugging her tight. She realizes he’s comforting her and pretends to cry. He pulls away and looks into her face, telling her “we’re both okay, yeah?” She wordlessly nods, and he repeats “see you next Sunday, kiddo,” then gets in his truck and drives away. Evie sits on the curb and begins to actually cry. 

The next day at school, Evie walks down the hallway when Hadley catches up to her. Hadley nonchalantly strikes up a conversation, saying her parents are obsessed with Mr. McCabe. Evie admits she didn’t tell her mom where she was going. Hadley tells her she’s got Calculus next, and Evie answers that she has Biology. They continue walking together in silence for a moment, then Hadley stops at the fork in the hallway. Evie stops as well, then Hadley speaks again and says that Mr. McCabe seemed okay at dinner. Evie agrees, saying he was as well as expected. Hadley lightly socks Evie’s shoulder then walks away to class. 

In a montage, Evie and Hadley have various discussions in various locations: the cafeteria, Hadley’s car, outside the school. Hadley talks about how she feels like all of her friends are fake and that she can’t connect with them. Evie talks about Jonah, and how he found Zabet. Hadley asks if he’s in college, and Evie admits he dropped out. Hadley accuses him of being creepy for picking up dead animals and dead girls. Evie defends him, and Hadley asks if she’s in love with him or something. Evie asks what Zabet’s last words were, and Hadley tells her it was probably “see you later” or something, then tells her to drop it. 

Evie and Hadley eat at another dinner at Mr. McCabe’s. He gives them each one of Zabet’s old necklaces. When Hadley points out that Evie got the one that Zabet wore everyday, Ray tells them that she wasn’t wearing it when she died. Hadley outright asks him if there have been any suspects, but Ray says no. He says more than anything, if he had a chance to meet his daughter’s murderer, if they were alone for just ten minutes, he wouldn’t attack him or hurt him, he would simply ask why he killed her. In Hadley’s car, Evie offers to trade with Hadley, but Hadley tells her no. She says that that was Zabet’s lucky necklace, but clearly it wasn’t. Hadley says she doesn’t want to go home yet, and asks if Evie wants to go somewhere. Evie agrees.

The two end up at a diner. Evie just orders a soda, while Hadley orders pancakes, saying she needs to get the taste of spaghetti out of her mouth. Hadley asks Evie if she’s ever been drunk. Evie says no. Hadley asks if she’s ever hitchhiked or smoked. Evie says no and no, and that she’s never done anything really. Hadley tells her she should do something since she’s sixteen. She looks over to a group of college guys at another table nearby and dares Evie to tell one of the guys to meet her in the parking lot. Evie turns her down, saying he wouldn’t, but Hadley argues back, telling her he definitely would. Hadley stands up abruptly, grabbing Evie’s hand and leading her out since the guys are leaving. Evie hesitates since they didn’t pay for their food but Hadley drags her out into the parking lot. Hadley screams after the guys in their car and the two girls bust out laughing. Hadley clings to Evie and dances her around the parking lot and through a ditch to the highway. She tells Evie they’re going to run away together and holds out her arm to hitchhike. Evie tries to lead her away, saying it’s too dangerous, but Hadley tells her they’re the dangerous ones. Evie insists, but Hadley grabs her face and tells her she promises to protect her if anything happens. They’re about to turn away from the highway when a car pulls up in front of them and one of the guys from the diner pokes his head out. He asks them if they want to go to a party near campus. Evie nods at Hadley, but Hadley tells her to tell them. Evie hesitates, and Hadley steps on her foot, prompting Evie to answer yes loudly. 

Hadley pulls up behind the guys in her car outside of the house. Hadley asks Evie if she’s ready, and Evie asks “ready for what?” Hadley answers “ready for something to happen.” Hadley falls in step with the guys and drinks from one of their flasks. The guy who invited them to the party hangs back with Evie introduces himself as Anthony-don’t-call-me-Tony. He chats with her, trying to make conversation about classes and work, and Evie is intentionally vague. He leads Evie to a couch and Evie notices she’s been separated from Hadley. She moves to go but he grabs her hand, telling her her friend will be back soon. One of the other guys comes back with three beers and hands one to Evie. She downs it in one go, impressing and intimidating the guys. Evie drinks another beer and begins to teeter on the couch a bit. She notices Hadley walking between two guys, unsteady on her feet, and calls to her. Hadley waddles over. Hadley leans against one guy named Chad and the other guy sits down and Tony asks what’s going on. The guy says he’s going to show Hadley upstairs. Hadley grabs Evie and pulls her into a hug. She whispers to Evie to tell Tony to show her the rest of the house. Evie tries to pull her away from Chad but Hadley steps away, leading Chad away from Evie and Tony. Tony and the other two guys talk to each other and Evie makes out the word “pills.” She turns around and asks if they gave Hadley pills. The guy that was with her says she brought the pills and they’re strong. 
Evie turns away from Tony and sees Jonah leaning against a wall on the other side of the room. Evie abandons Tony and makes her way over to Jonah. Jonah looks at her with surprise and Evie clinks their cups together. He asks her how much she’s had tonight and she pouts, moving to turn away, but he grabs her arm. Evie smiles up at Jonah when Tony appears beside her, asking her what’s up. Evie tells him she saw a friend, and introduces Tony and Jonah to each other, and Tony annoyedly corrects her, saying it’s Anthony. Tony asks Jonah how he knows Evie and Jonah smiles, saying that they see each other every Sunday morning, but is interrupted by Hadley loudly screaming Evie’s name. Evie runs up the stairs and sees Hadley struggling to hold a door closed. Hadley turns and sees Evie and collapses into her arms. The door swings open and Chad comes out, looking angry and covering his eye. Evie yells at him, telling him to back off and leave Hadley alone. Tony grabs Chad and tells him Hadley and Evie are just kids and that Evie runs a paper route according to Jonah. Evie grows bold, saying that they are sixteen, which means statutory rape. The commotion at the party dies down and Hadley pleads with Evie for them to go. They exit the house and Evie asks Hadley what she took. Hadley says they were just sleeping pills and she’s fine. Evie drives her home silently. 

Some time later, Evie stays home from school sick, lazing on the couch flipping channels on TV, and stumbles onto a news report about Zabet. In it, a waitress named Laura Grossman says she heard two men discussing the murder at the diner where she works, and heard them say “I didn’t think they’d find the body so soon.” The exterior of the diner is shown, and Evie recognizes it as the diner she and Hadley were at. Later, she’s woken up by someone knocking on the front door. She answers it and Hadley comes in, telling Evie she looks terrible. She tells her to get up and get dressed because they need to go. 

Hadley smokes a cigarette in the parking lot of the diner. She offers the end to Evie, who takes it. They exit the car and Hadley storms in. Evie lags behind, stomping the cigarette on the ground, and enters the diner a moment later. Inside, Hadley hangs back, looking nervous. She pulls on Evie’s arm and tells her to get a table from the host, a young guy. Evie steps up and he asks if it’s a table for one, but she corrects him, turning back to look at Hadley who’s hiding behind her. She interrupts the host as he’s seating them, telling him they had a good waitress named Laura last time. He tells them she doesn’t have a shift that afternoon. Their waitress approaches them and takes their order, and Evie mentions the news. The waitress brushes it off, saying they’re not supposed to talk about it, police orders, and leaves to put in their orders. Evie asks if they can go and Hadley pleads with her, saying if she was really Hadley’s best friend she would do this for her. The waitress brings their drinks and Evie asks her if she knows anything, and the waitress tells her no again, but Evie stops her, saying they want to know because Hadley was her best friend. Hadley cuts in and says that Zabet was Evie’s sister. The waitress sits down in the booth and comforts Evie, saying she really doesn’t know anything about the guys, but that she trusts Laura. She tells them about her Aunt who was shot in the face in a parking garage, and tells Evie that her aunt and Evie’s “sister” are probably in Heaven together now. The waitress kisses her cheek and leaves the table, and the girls quickly leave after. 

In the parking lot, Hadley stalls for a bit. Evie awkwardly asks if they can go, and Hadley tells her to look. Evie asks again and Hadley pushes Evie’s head in the direction of the other side of the parking lot. A man stands by his car, seemingly watching them. Evie suggests that he’s just waiting for someone, but Hadley says he followed them out of the restaurant. She says “they follow you out sometimes.” Evie starts to ask what this means but is cut off by Hadley suddenly peeling out from her parking space and driving straight towards the man. The guy climbs up on the top of his trunk but falls to the ground. Evie closes her eyes, bracing for impact, but Hadley abruptly breaks. Hadley puts her head on the steering wheel, controlling her breathing. Evie gets out of the car and looks down at the guy, his legs just a foot away from the front wheels. He’s college age, not much older than them. He clambors up and tells Evie “I’m sorry, I didn’t know” and gets in his car and quickly drives away. Evie gets back into the car and starts to ask Hadley what happened but Hadley cuts her off, saying he shouldn’t have been watching them. Later, she pulls up in front of Evie’s house and doesn’t unlock the door. Evie pulls on the lock and Hadley quickly locks it again, to Evie’s annoyance. Hadley grimly looks at her and says “We have to find him.” Evie starts to explain that the police will do their job, but Hadley interrupts, saying if they’re Zabet’s friends they can find her killer. Evie wordlessly nods and gets out of the car. 

Some time later at school, Evie and Hadley walk through the halls together, discussing suspects. Hadley mentions a junior named Justin who once beat a kid up for getting his sleeve wet with his umbrella. Evie writes his name in her science notebook. Hadley also mentions Wendy, an old friend of hers who didn’t like Zabet. Evie writes the name down, and Hadley also tells her the entire soccer team, which Evie objects to but Hadley insists. Evie also mentions the guy Hadley was at the party with, Chad. Hadley looks at her blankly, and says fine, and to add the guy Evie was with too. She writes down Chad and Tony. Evie pauses, asking if it’s worth putting them on there if they likely never met Zabet. Hadley scoffs, saying she and Zabet used to go to parties all the time, and Evie isn’t special for getting hit on at a party. The remark stings Evie, and the two stand in tense silence for a moment. Hadley sighs, saying it could really be anyone. Evie if even Mr. McCabe could be it. Hadley replies that it could be him. Evie asks if it could be her, and again Hadley replies it could be Evie or even Hadley herself. 

At lunch, Hadley says they should start a whisper campaign, and spread rumors about Zabet; she was pregnant, she was meeting her dealer, she was running away from an abusive household, and anyone who changes the rumor or reacts strangely to it is a suspect. Evie hesitates, asking if that wouldn’t just ruin Zabet’s reputation. Hadley shrugs, saying Zabet’s already dead; she doesn’t have a reputation anymore. A punk looking guy walks by their table, and Hadley says that guy, Garrett Murray, is their number one suspect. She tells Evie that he’s trouble, saying he punched a teacher in middle school, he got kicked out of his last two schools, and one time he beat a kid up for getting his sleeve wet with his umbrella. Evie starts to question her but stops, instead saying she’ll add him to the list. Hadley says she’ll start smoking with him to try and get dirt out of him. She also says that Evie needs to get Jonah Luks to take her to where he found the body. Evie says he won’t want to, but Hadley insists, saying she has to make him want to. 

That Sunday, Evie sits on the front steps of one of the houses near Hokepe Woods. Jonah’s truck pulls in, and she gets up and brushes herself off. As Jonah gets his equipment out, he grunts in acknowledgement at Evie. Evie runs to catch up with him, telling him she finished delivering all her papers. He tells her she’s lucky she can go home now, and Evie asks if she can walk with him for a bit. Jonah turns her down, but she insists, saying he could use the company and her extra eyes helping him. He tells her no, saying it’s too muddy, but she awkwardly says she likes mud. He tells her “go home, kiddo,” and she gets annoyed, saying he knows her name, she knows because he used it that day when he called out to her. He looks at her, telling her he knows why she wants to go out there, and when Evie doesn’t respond he continues, saying it’s not some joke or gossip. Evie shakes her head, saying it’s not like that; she knew Zabet. Jonah says she was Evie’s friend, but Evie corrects him and says she wasn’t. Jonah points out it’s not a good time to be bringing girls into the woods, and Evie says she won’t tell if he doesn’t. He starts walking, pulling his sled behind him, calling Evie by name and telling her to come on then. She follows him. 

They walk through the woods, the only sounds being Jonah’s sled and the rustling of leaves in the trees. Evie breaks the silence, asking if he finds something in the woods every time. He says yes, usually something small, and a deer about every third time, though it used to be a lot less. Evie observes that that’s a lot of deer, and he agrees, telling her he thinks someone’s been poisoning them since they’ve had foam in their mouths. Evie asks who would do that and Jonah shrugs, saying it’s probably someone in one of the houses, but she shouldn’t spread that around. Evie delights in the secret, and babbles on that he should try to catch the culprit, when Jonah stops, and points to a spot in the woods, telling her that’s the spot in between two trees. Evie crouches down, placing her hand in the dirt, and looks up at the trees. The leaves rustle and sunlight pokes through. Evie takes a deep breath, closing her eyes and letting the sun beat down on her face. Her reverie is broken when she falls forward into the dirt. She cusses loudly, and Jonah starts to laugh before looking down at her and suddenly turning serious. He helps her up and they keep walking. Evie asks if it was horrible finding her, and he tells her sure. She reaches out and holds onto his arm, leaning into him slightly, and he doesn’t react. She breaks the silence again, asking if Zabet’s eyes were open. He stops and pulls his arm away, saying he’s got to finish the rest of the woods. He points in a direction and tells Evie if she walks that way she’ll get back to the houses. Evie thanks him and he tells her sure, then turns away. Evie listens to his sled moving through the dirt as she walks in the opposite direction. 

Evie walks past the house Jonah entered to call the police in, and the bush she hid in to spy on him, then walks back to her car. When Evie gets home, her mom tells her Hadley called twice and woke her up. Evie sits down at the table with her mom, and her mom talks about how Hadley was rude, saying she called before nine and made her mom promise to deliver her message for Evie to call her. Evie apologizes, saying Hadley’s been through a lot, and her mom starts to respond when the phone rings again. Evie answers and Hadley immediately asks if she talked to Jonah. Evie pointedly looks at her mom, who excuses herself. Evie brings the phone into her room and tells her yeah, and Hadley asks why she didn’t come over. Evie brushes her off, saying she had to get the car home. Hadley asks if Jonah took her to the spot and Evie tells her no, which Hadley can’t believe. Evie insists, and Hadley stays silent. Evie adds a soft apology, and Hadley accuses her of not talking to him like they practiced, but Evie insists. Hadley calls him an asshole, which Evie objects to, saying he said it was a bad time to bring girls into the woods. Hadley calls him creepy, but Evie says he’s just being practical. Hadley says he’s going on the suspect list, and Evie points out he already is. Hadley pauses for a long moment, then says Evie will try again tomorrow, her voice crying. Evie promises to try again, and Hadley hangs up. 

At lunch at school, Evie looks around the cafeteria for Hadley. When she doesn’t see her, she sits down by herself. Later, Evie walks the empty hallways and exits the school building, crossing the street to the wheat field by the parking lot. She walks into the field and runs into two students smoking, a girl and a guy. She timidly asks if they’ve seen Hadley, and the guy briefly gives her a hard time, teasing her for cutting class and being out in the smoking field. The girl tells him to knock it off and tells Evie Hadley is probably deeper in the field. The guy gives Evie a lit cigarette as an apology, and Evie keeps walking. The tall stalks of wheat rustle as Evie walks, and voices flit in and out around her. She stops and sighs, about to turn around, when the wheat stalks in front of her rustle wildly, knocking the cigarette out of her hand. She hears Hadley’s voice clearly say “you’re on fire,” and peeks her head into the next row of wheat. She sees Hadley sitting back on her knees in front of Garrett, whose pants are unbuttoned. Hadley repeats herself, and Garrett bats at his shirt, which is smoking on the back, a small hole burned through. He and Hadley spot Evie, and Garrett angrily gets in Evie’s face, asking if she threw her cigarette and why she’s spying on them. Hadley pulls him away from Evie, saying she asked Evie to come out and get her. She grabs Evie’s arm and pulls her away from the field and toward school. As they walk, Evie timidly admits that it was her cigarette that set him on fire, and they break into a fit of giggles. When they sober up, Hadley says she still hates Garrett. Evie asks why she was out in the field with him, and Hadley rolls her eyes in response. 

Evie sits on her bed in her room, observing the trap she stole from Jonah. She runs her fingers along the teeth delicately like she’s worried it will snap on her hand. She stops, hearing the sound of her locked front doorknob being fiddled with. She sets down the trap and cautiously gets up from her bed, walking into the living room and watching the doorknob jiggle. And startles when Hadley pounds on the door, shouting at her to open up. Evie opens the door and Hadley barrels in, swiftly locking the front door behind her. She runs to Evie’s room and looks out the window, then collapses to the floor with relief. She tells Evie he’s gone. Evie asks who, and Hadley says the guy she ran over at the diner parking lot, or almost ran over, has been following her in his car. Evie treats it as a joke, but Hadley seems panicked and disappointed in Evie, worrying if he’ll get her next. Evie tries to calm her down, saying it won’t be her. Hadley straightens up and looks on Evie’s bed, noticing the trap there. She easily springs open the trap, making Evie panic, saying it’s dangerous. Hadley just as easily unsets the trap. Evie scoops up the trap and puts it away. She grabs Hadley’s arm and tells her she’ll show her the spot where Zabet was found. 

Evie guides Hadley through the woods, taking the same route Jonah used to show her. Hadley is borderline giddy, skipping through the woods and humming, lacing her fingers through Evie’s and swinging their arms. Evie stops at the spot and points it out to Hadley. Hadley walks up to the spot and sits down in the mud. Evie objects at first but Hadley ignores her, instead laying down completely on her back. She looks up at the sky and the jagged edge of the trees and their rustling leaves. The leaves beneath her head crunch as she moves. Evie reluctantly sits down next to her. Hadley points out that this view was the last thing Zabet saw. Evie lays down as well and looks up, taking in the sky and treeline. She asks Hadley what Zabet was like, and what kind of person she was. Hadley vaguely says she was just a person, then changes the subject, asking if Jonah said if her eyes were open or closed. Evie says they were open. Hadley turns on her side to look at Evie, and Evie does the same. She tells Evie Zabet was a good person and a good friend, and went along with what anybody wanted to do. She asks Evie if she would know the killer if she saw him. Evie says she’s unsure, but maybe. Hadley resolutely says she will know him when she sees him. 

The two walk back through the woods to Hadley’s car. Evie tries to clean up the mud off her body but Hadley doesn’t seem to mind it. On the edge of the woods, Hadley stops, pulling Evie back into the woods. She points to the car parked behind hers, a burgundy station wagon and says the guy followed her there. She starts to go to the car but Evie pulls her back to her, begging her not to go. Hadley looks Evie in the eye and says she just wants to look. She walks towards the car slowly but firmly while Evie watches, growing more panicked with each step Hadley takes. The car door swings open but Evie shouts and runs toward Hadley before they can see who the driver was, as he closes the door and quickly drives away. Evie catches up to Hadley and puts her arms around her but Hadley angrily bats them away. Hadley says she hopes he tries to come for her next, because she’ll be ready. 

At school again Evie stands at her locker looking at the suspect list. She sighs and shoves it into the back of her locker when a commotion starts up down the hall. The huddle of students is broken up by Hadley busting through, being led by a faculty member. Hadley’s face is bruised and bleeding and her eyes are wild. Evie calls out to her but Hadley ignores her. Nearby, Evie listens to two students gossiping about the incident. Apparently Hadley bit Garrett’s face and neck so he punched her face to get her off of him and now both of them are suspended. Later, Evie stops by Hadley’s house and knocks on the door but no one answers. She leaves Hadley’s homework under a rock on the porch.

At home, Evie gets a call from Evie. Evie says Hadley’s been avoiding her. Hadley brushes her off, then thanks her for the homework. She tells Evie to sleep over tonight. Evie hesitates, saying she’ll have to ask her mom. Hadley tells her to make her say yes. Later when Evie and her mom are eating dinner, there’s a knock on the door. Her mom answers it and sees Hadley waiting for Evie with a backpack slung over her shoulder. Evie’s mom fusses over Hadley’s bruised face but Hadley brushes her off, saying she thinks her face looks cool. Evie’s mom is perplexed. Hadley excuses herself to go to the bathroom. Evie says Hadley’s there to collect her for a sleepover but pleads with her mom to tell her she can’t go. Her mom tells her she should have fun. Hadley returns and says they should get a move on. 

Hadley and Evie lay on their backs in Hadley’s bed under the covers. Evie looks up at Hadley’s ceiling, covered in glow-in-the-dark plastic stars that illuminate in the dark. Hadley breaks the silence, asking what people at school are saying about her. Evie just says that she got in a fight and got suspended. Hadley says she attacked Garrett and he was only trying to defend himself. Evie asks why she did it and Hadley says she wanted to know what it felt like. Evie turns away from Hadley and drifts off to sleep. Later, she’s woken up by Hadley putting on her clothes and packing a backpack. She looks at Evie, telling her to get ready to go. Evie refuses, saying she’s not going into the woods at night, but Hadley insists, pulling her out of bed and saying if there’s nothing there there’s nothing to be afraid of. 

Evie and Hadley walk through the woods. Evie looks up at the sky. It’s scattered with stars and the darkened jagged treeline cuts through the inky dark blue. Crickets and bugs chirp out and add to the sound of the girls’ soft footsteps in the dirt. Hadley leads them past the spot where Zabet was found to a fallen log and sits down. She pulls out a flashlight from her backpack with a metallic clang. Evie reluctantly sits on the ground in front of the log. Hadley says the killer always returns to the scene of the crime, but Evie rolls her eyes, saying that’s just in the movies. They laugh softly and listen to the sounds of the night, bugs dancing around the beam of Hadley’s flashlight. They suddenly hear a rustling in the woods, and the distinct sound of footsteps. Hadley clicks off the flashlight and puts it in her back pocket. She and Evie simultaneously stand and reach for each other, intertwining their fingers tightly. They tiptoe softly through the woods toward the sound, Hadley leading them. They stop a few yards away and see a shadowy figure at the spot where Zabet died. The figure leans over, something glinting in their hand and Evie sucks in a sharp breath. Hadley squeezes her hand and motions toward a closer tree with a wide trunk. They silently make their way over to the tree and hide. Evie lets go of Hadley and nearly collapses against the tree, pressing her forehead against the bark of the trunk. Hadley whispers in her ear to look. Evie peeks her head out from behind the tree and sees Jonah, drunk and holding a beer bottle, sitting in front of Zabet’s spot. Hadley resolutely takes out the flashlight from her back pocket, brandishing it like a nightstick. Evie tries to signal for her to stop but Hadley steps forward. Evie quickly runs out in front of Jonah. She falls on her hands and knees, scraping her left knee slightly. Jonah confusedly looks at her, asking her what she’s doing there. Evie says she was at a sleepover. She crawls over to sit next to Jonah and he points out that she got hurt. She tells him she’s fine and pulls her pant leg up to show him. He places his hands on her knee and her breath catches. His hands linger there for a moment, then he stumbles up. Evie catches him, guiding him through the woods back to his truck. She doesn’t look over her shoulder as Hadley watches them from behind the tree.

Jonah stumbles up to his truck and fumbles with his keys, finally unlocking the cab and hoisting himself up and in. He curls up in the cab, leaning against the steering wheel. Evie hesitates for a moment before climbing into the passenger seat and trying to rouse Jonah from his sleep. He grunts and Evie sighs. She climbs in from the driver’s side and shoves him into the passenger seat. She grabs the keys and drives away from Hokepe Woods. Evie parks by a curb in a random neighborhood and sits, watching Jonah sleep. She inches closer, resting her hand on his shoulder, then his cheek. She leans in and kisses his cheeks, his nose, his forehead, then his lips. She pulls away, laughing slightly to herself, then kisses him again. He kisses her back drunkenly, using his tongue, and she pulls away, startled. He opens his eyes and looks surprised, letting out a noncommittal “oh.” Evie moves with her back to the door, feeling behind her back for the door handle. Jonah drunkenly rambles, saying that was weird, and it was weird when she fell out of the trees. He tells her clearly that he thought she was the dead girl, then nods back to sleep. Evie manages to get the door open and falls out backwards. 

Evie lands hard on the pavement, knocking her head on the curb and biting through her lip violently. She gasps for air, blood pouring from her mouth, when Jonah calls out her name and scrambles across the cab. She quickly gets up and runs away. She runs until she can’t breathe, clutching at her sides. She retches on the side of the road when a car full of college kids rolls up to her. A passenger asks if she’s okay and Evie asks if they can take her home. They take in the sight of her: blood running down her chin and the front of her shirt, muddy from the woods with leaves in her hair. She pleads with them again and they agree. Later, Evie gets out of their car and walks up to a door, knocking softly. Mr. McCabe answers. 

He lets her in happily and unquestioning. The TV is on and there’s a snack laid out on the coffee table in front of the couch. Evie shudders and he offers her a snack or a drink. She turns him down and says that’s okay. She tells him she’s sorry for intruding but she didn’t have anywhere else to go. He tells her it’s fine, and that she was a friend of Elizabeth’s. He offers to drive her home and she asks if she can stay at his place tonight. He tells her that’s perfectly fine and leads her to Zabet’s old room, untouched and preserved like a shrine to her. The bed is unmade, a drinking glass rests on the nightstand, and drawers are open with clothes piling out. He tells Evie to help herself to any pajamas if she needs them and bids her goodnight. Evie stops him by hugging him slightly, and he hesitates before hugging her back. He leaves and shuts the door behind him. Evie peeks in all the drawers and fiddles with the trinkets on Zabet’s dresser. She runs her hand between the mattress and the boxspring. She opens the closet and pushes the clothes away, standing on her tiptoes to reach the top shelf. She pulls down a shoebox that has Zabet’s lighter and a half empty box of cigarettes, as well as a notebook filled with sketches. Evie changes into a t-shirt and shorts of Zabet’s and looks at herself in the mirror. She turns around and starts cleaning the room. She puts away all the messy clothes and trinkets while smoking a cigarette. She lays down on Zabet’s bad and goes to sleep, then wakes before the sun comes up the next morning, makes the bed, changes, and quietly slips out past Mr. McCabe, who’s fallen asleep in front of the TV. 

Evie walks back to Hadley’s house. She sees Hadley’s car parked in the street in front of the house and peers in, seeing Hadley sleeping in the backseat. She opens the door and Hadley wakes up, smiling at her. Evie apologizes, saying the guy in the woods was Jonah Luks, and she had to make sure he was okay since he was drunk. Hadley sits up and scoots over in the backseat. Evie slides in the car next to her. Hadley shrugs, saying it’s whatever and Evie just spent the night with a guy she liked. Evie says all they did was kiss and Hadley snorts, asking if he chewed her lip off. Evie tries to explain but keeps getting interrupted by Hadley, who asks why they stopped kissing. Evie steals herself and says she ran away after he said she reminded him of Zabet, “that dead girl” he called her. Hadley gets angry and swears at Evie, saying she waited up all night for her and was ready to call the police because she thought something happened to her. Evie apologizes for making her worry and Hadley laughs incredulously, saying she wasn’t worried and it’s not like Evie is her friend or anything. This stings Evie, who apologizes again, and Hadley screams at her to get the fuck out of her car. Evie does. 

Evie walks in her house and her mom greets her without turning around while making breakfast. She asks if Evie had fun, and Evie snaps, saying didn’t, all she did was bust her lip open. Her mom quickly turns around and observes Evie’s face, saying she’ll want to put something on it so it doesn’t swell up and get infected. Evie snaps again, accusing her mom of only caring about how it looks and saying she didn’t even ask what happened. She says she could have gotten her face beaten by some guy and her mom wouldn’t even care. She storms down the hall and locks herself in her room.

The next morning, Evie pulls into the Hokepe Woods neighborhood and spots Hadley waiting for her on the curb. Evie is cautious around her but Hadley shows no indication of still being mad at her, and says she’s there to help. They deliver papers in the neighborhood, with Evie keeping an eye out for Jonah’s truck. When he pulls into the neighborhood, he keeps driving past them and Hadley smiles at Evie before taking off behind him and calling out to him. Evie reluctantly runs after her. She happens upon Hadley leaning into Jonah’s pulled over truck and asks if they can walk with him. She repeats the same speech Evie used earlier to convince Jonah when she wanted to see Zabet’s spot, but he refuses. He gets out of the truck and gathers his supplies and Hadley flirts with him, insisting that he let them come with but he doesn’t bite. They trail after him, Hadley laughing and joking with him and trying to grab his keys while Evie stays silent. Suddenly Hadley grows serious and asks him if he ever encounters any animals that are still alive. She continues, asking him if he ever finds any that are almost dead and if he does, does he just stomp on them or slit their throats with his hunting knife. Taken aback, Jonah stops and stares at Hadley and she uses the moment to grab his keys and run deeper into the woods. Jonah sighs and asks Evie to watch his sled. She wordlessly nods and he runs off after Hadley. Evie waits for a few long moments but doesn’t see any sign of Jonah or Hadley. She looks around at the woods and realizes they’re in a familiar patch of trees. She calls out to Jonah and Hadley but gets no response. She panics, breaking down and leaning against a tree, hyperventilating. She hears a loud cry from the woods and runs the other way.

Evie pounds on Mr. McCabe’s door and he answers. She pants, asking him to follow her. He complies, running with her to the edge of the woods then stops. Evie cries, saying they have to go in there because Hadley’s in there. Mr. McCabe grows serious, saying they should call the police but Evie begs him to help her. They step into the woods together.

At the spot where Zabet was found, they find Hadley huddled into a ball, rocking back and forth in shock. Jonah lies beside her, his leg mangled and bloody, caught in an animal trap - the one that Evie stole. He’s passed out. Mr. McCabe runs to Jonah, creating a tourniquet with his clothes and attempting to staunch the blood. Evie carefully walks over to Hadley and Hadley looks up at her, then bursts into tears. Evie puts her arms around her. Mr. McCabe instructs Evie to press down on Jonah’s wound and he runs to get help. She presses down, her hands quickly getting soaked with blood. She looks over at Hadley, who’s wide and wild eyed. Hadley says she did it, and Evie says she knows. Hadley shakes her head, saying she means Zabet. Evie is confused, and Hadley says she and Zabet had a list. Guys they would meet, their names, their numbers, what they looked like. They would meet these guys and add them to the list, and call them to have sex with them or get drugs or rob them or whatever they wanted. And when they were done they would cross them off the list. Evie puts it together, realizing that night Zabet was meeting someone from the list. She asks where the list is now, and Hadley says she burned it, breaking down again. Evie watches her cry, continuing to push down on Jonah’s leg. 

The scene hard cuts to Evie and Hadley in the same positions in frame, with Hadley lying in a hospital bed and Evie sitting in a chair beside her. Hadley laughs easily, saying she was in shock but now she’s not, and complaining that she won’t even get to stay long enough to get free Jello. Her smile falters when she notices Evie’s silence. She asks what’s wrong with Evie and Evie just stares at her wordlessly. Hadley nods, then pauses. She continues, reminding Evie of the list, and saying she had a thought that it could have really been Jonah. Evie shakes her head, saying it wasn’t. Hadley continues, saying that Jonah took Evie herself back to his car, but Evie says she took him back. Hadley says he kissed Evie, but Evie says that’s not true. Hadley interrupts with a smile and says Evie told her Jonah kissed her, and then told her he hit her. Evie goes silent again. Hadley nods again, agreeing with the story she just told. Evie stands abruptly, letting the chair screech against the floor. She tells Hadley she told them it was an accident. Hadley rolls her eyes, saying she knew Evie would.

Evie walks like a zombie back to the waiting room. She passes by her mother and stands directly in front of Mr. McCabe, saying she has something to tell him. Evie speaks with Mr. McCabe as a voiceover narration starts up. As the voiceover continues, scenes play of Evie back at school, delivering papers, hugging Hadley goodbye, having dinner with Mr. McCabe, and eventually stopping by Zabet’s old room, now bare and empty. Evie explains that Jonah lost his leg at the knee. They were worried he almost wouldn’t make it, but he pulled through in the end. He couldn’t work for Jefferson Wildlife Control anymore, and in fact, moved out of state all together, to live with his brother in South Carolina. Evie didn’t visit him in the hospital. She told Mr. McCabe about the list, the real list, even though it was painful for both of them. It turned out the list didn’t help the police anyways. They caught the guy by accident, after murdering another girl three states over. Zabet’s sweater was still in his car. Rumors swirled at school about Hadley’s role in Jonah’s “accident” and Zabet’s death. Evie notes that although every rumor got back to her, she never heard her own name mentioned in all these stories, like a ghost, the page on which the story is written, or the space between trees. Hadley spent the summer with her aunt out of town, then transferred schools the next year. She says goodbye to Evie, wishing her luck and hugging her tightly. Evie looks into Zabet’s room. She says every hint of Zabet is gone. She finishes her monologue with the line “‘Rest in peace,’ that’s what we say when we speak to the dead, and then we hold our breath and wait for them to whisper the same words back to us.”

 

 

Alternative Google Docs Link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BsthGChCmGVx_v1awqz4bcaiA65shNPfL7YxfcvIs6E/edit?usp=sharing

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HOLLAND HANNAH

 

Festival Placement: IN COMPETITION

Directed by: Anton Corbijn

Cinematography: Martijn van Broekhuizen

Edited by: Claire Simpson

Genre: Drama / Action

Shooting Format: Arri Alexa Mini (3.4K Digital)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Film Format: 4K DCP

Audio Format: 5.1

Production Budget: $7.5 million

Running Time: 90 minutes

 

Main Cast:

Elizabeth Debicki as Hannah

Omar Sy as Dominique

Adam Brody as Gordon
Michiel Huisman as Ruben

The rest of the characters are performed by unknowns, mostly Dutch actors.

 

Premise: Set in the city of Amsterdam at the height of the mid-1990s Eurodance craze, an Australian contract killer (Debicki) is hired by members of the Dutch mob to assassinate a former lover of hers (Sy) that was caught skimming from their funds.

 

Full Synopsis (around 1.9k):

 

 


1999. As The Breeders’ cover of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” plays, a plane flies above a European city during the late afternoon. A young steely-eyed blonde woman, Hannah (Elizabeth Debicki) reads a copy of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and then glances out her window as the flight crew informs the passengers that they'll be arriving in Amsterdam shortly. The song continues to play as she walks through the airport with a confident swagger pulling her carry-on bag, looking at the various advertisements and stores inside the airport with a sense of familiarity. At some point, as she goes down an escalator, she sees a well-dressed man named Ruben (Michiel Huisman) waiting at the bottom, who waves to her.

As a chauffeur drives them throughout the city, "This Is Your Night" by Amber plays on the radio. Ruben describes all the various landmarks and sights to see in Amsterdam (we can tell that he's somewhat attracted to her) as well as the city nightlife, but Hannah replies that she's been to the city multiple times in the past, and is already quite familiar with it. Ruben hopes that she can enjoy her visit while she's "taking care of business." In the evening, they arrive at a strip club, where a DJ plays some trance music. Ruben continues to act as a tour guide of sorts of his establishment, trying to call Hannah's attention to the meticulous club design and the choreography of the dancers, and Hannah tries to hide her disinterest. They make their way to the table of an older gentleman named Rudolf, who waits patiently for them to sit down and get settled in.

As the three's conversation progresses, we can infer from some small details that Hannah is a contract killer, and that Ruben and Rudolf are both members of the penose, the Dutch equivalent of the mob based in Amsterdam, and that she's been hired for a job. Ruben shows a picture of a man named Dominique (Omar Sy), and explains that while Dominique used to be a valuable partner, word is that he's been skimming from the mob's funds in order to start a rival operation, and they want Hannah to take care of him. While they don’t know where he is, they know that his associate, a pimp/bookie named Martijn might know. Ruben maintains his stoic business attitude, Rudolf angrily laments that they never should've gotten involved with him in the first place, and that he had a feeling from the moment he met him that he would turn. Hannah affirms that she can get the job done, no questions asked, and Ruben thanks her, telling her they've booked her a hotel room at the Amstel. Rudolf tells her that he hopes her jetlag wears off, because he wants the job done quickly.

She arrives at the hotel room, and after unpacking her belongings, takes another look at the photo of Dominique.

1993. Same city, different time. (These flashback sequences feature more handheld camera work, as well as more frequent cuts, shooting in wide angles and a less linear presentation.) As “No Limit” by 2 Unlimited plays loudly throughout an active nightclub, Hannah takes a shot at the bar, repeatedly eyeing the hallway to the office. Across the bar, Dominique, in the flesh, eyes her. When she orders another, Dominique corrects the bartender: 2 shots, both on him. He walks over to Hannah and begins to hit on her, but Hannah at first rejects his advances, commenting that his English isn’t very good in French. Dominique becomes a bit flustered, but keeps at it, and Hannah says that he’ll let him buy her one drink if he goes away afterwards.

They walk over to a table with drinks and begin to open up about themselves as the music changes. Throughout their conversation, we learn that Dominique is the son of Senegalese immigrants and that his time in Amsterdam is his first vacation in a while, while Hannah is from Australia and is here for business reasons (still eyeing the office hallway). As they discuss their home lives, they find a commonality when the subject switches to their domineering parents, and the feeling of having no autonomy in their personal lives and Hannah begins to feel a twinge of connection to him.

Dominique asks if she wants to head onto the dancefloor, and Hannah, beginning to feel energized, says she needs to make a quick trip. Walking down the hallway, she turns into the bathroom, and takes some ecstasy, before storming into the office. An older man struggles to navigate the menus on his desktop computer with several large bills and an ashtray on his desk. Hannah pulls out a gun and shoots him in the thigh. As he cries out in pain, Hannah presses down on his wound tells the man that he’s had too many chances to pay up. She shoots him in the chest, killing him, and stuffs the money in her jacket. She heads back out as the Haddaway song overtakes all other sound in the film. She goes up to Dominique, and in a state of energized ecstasy, begins to make out with him. The two dance amidst the crowd, as a swirl of neon lights and smoke begins to overtake our vision.

"What is Love" continues as Hannah rides on the back of a motorcycle, which swerves through the streets of Amsterdam. They have sex in Dominique’s hotel room, and embrace each other lovingly, intercut with a montage showcasing some of their time in the city during their stay. Late into the night (no soundtrack), Hannah and Dominique lie in bed, talking more about themselves. Both wonder how long they have to feel the kind of excitement they experienced tonight, and Dominique responds that the time they’re living in isn’t built to last, which is why he’s living in the moment, and she should too.

In the present, Hannah navigates her way through De Wallen, a known “red-light” district, and makes her way to the brothel owned by Martijn, under the pretense of applying for work as a prostitute. Getting the chance to meet one on one with Martijn, a man with some sleazy qualities personality-wise, she quickly switches into hitman mode, beginning to pressure him into revealing where Dominique is by aiming a staple gun at his hand. As she starts firing, Martijn relents and reveals his address in the Jordaan. Before she leaves, Martijn taunts her as he clutches his hand, saying that he still talks about her, and asks that he not break his heart.

Walking out of Martijn’s office, Hannah is ambushed by Martijn’s bodyguard. The fight is taken to the bathroom stalls, where Hannah is cornered. However, despite his taller stature and larger build, she out-maneuvers him and lands some considerable blows on him. She bashes the bodyguard’s head against the bottom of the toilet, and walks out calmly even as the patrons notice her hands covered in blood.Ready to head to her destination, Martijn’s words echo in her head and she recalls her earlier memories of Dominique. Feeling exhausted, she finds a place to wipe her hands clean, and staggers into the night.

Hannah ends up at the same nightclub she was in back in 1993, and wanders through the crowded space looking alienated from the rest of the dancers. She watches the faces of everyone that she passes by, looking happy and carefree. She finds another sullen face standing amidst the crowd, Gordon (Adam Brody), and walks up to him and asks if he knows the song. He replies that it’s “Better Off Alone” by Alice Deejay, and that he should know since the label he works for is promoting the single in the US. She asks if they want to go somewhere else, and he passively agrees.

In a private room, they both smoke a joint as they discuss current events while the bass from the music booms from the other room. Gordon talks about how his fruitless attempts to keep his mother to not invest in a bunker for Y2K, while Hannah jokes that she welcomes the techno-apocalypse with open arms (she lies about her profession, claiming to be a computer company executive). Gordon then laments that he finds his current job unsatisfying, and that he expected to be a musician and ended up being someone who manages musicians to his disappointment. They then discuss that the paths they’ve taken in life haven’t led them to where they wanted to be. At some point, Hannah begins to cry, admitting to Gordon that she thinks she’s a terrible person. Gordon tries to comfort her, and he offers to spend the night with her.

They walk through the town, continuing to talk, until a van pulls up. Several men exit and grab the two of them. Hannah struggles as Gordon is beaten, while one of the men informs Hannah that their boss (Dominique) knows about the planned hit, and says that they’re here to deliver a message. She fights them off, and guns them down. In her hotel room, she tends to Gordon’s wounds, and tells him she can get him a plane ticket for her flight tomorrow back to Australia, and asks him to meet her at the airport. He accepts, and they kiss.

In the morning, Hannah leaves to go to Dominique’s location. She approaches his doorstep with each step feeling like an eternity, and keeps her gun close to her. She enters the apartment slowly, but Dominique knows that she’s there. He calmly greets her, apologizing if his men caused too much trouble last night, but that hopefully she’s impressed by what he’s made of himself since she last saw him. He offers her a cup of coffee, but she refuses.

They begin to have a conversation, trying to catch up amidst the tense atmosphere. Dominique tries to woo her back, saying that he doesn’t believe their night years ago was just a one-time thing, but Hannah says that she doesn’t see a future for them, and that there’s too many factors now forcing them apart. They argue for a moment about whatever romantic feelings they may or may not still have, until things simmer down once more. Dominique asks what’s stopping her from accepting him back, and Hannah says that she has commitments that prevent her from doing so. She admits that she still might have feelings deep down for him, but says that he needs to look at himself and look at her, and ask himself what makes him thing they could have ever been together longer. They share a silence, before Hannah asks for that cup of coffee he offered. Somberly, he gets up to make it, and Hannah whips out his pistol during his moment of vulnerability and shoots him in the head.

Later in the day, Hannah calls from a payphone at the airport and tells an unknown person that the job is done. She finds Gordon at the terminal. On the plane ride to Australia, she lies back in her chair next to Gordon during the takeoff. She glances out the window, and for a split second she sees Dominique on the runway, watching as the plane takes off. She blinks, and he’s gone.
 

 

Edited by Alpha
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