I am not going to lie: I had to leave my living room at least three times during Nobody Walks out of sheer discomfort. Usually I reserve this kind of reactionary behavior for when I trick myself into thinking I enjoy scary movies and then can’t handle it, but this time around, it was prompted by the sheer uncomfortableness I felt at witnessing (seemingly) EVERYONE on the screen make every wrong decision they possibly could, all in less than an hour and a half. Turns out the horrors of relationships are way more disturbing to me than someone sawing legs off with piano wires (but not by much).
Reminiscent of the other “very LA” movies about emotional malaise like Laurel Canyon or The Kids are Alright, Nobody Walks tells a story about a good family (almost) torn apart by an outside influence. In this case, the outsider is Martine (a fresh faced Olivia Thrilby), a 23 year old artist with a Jean Seberg cut, who has a penchant for good jeans and better make out sessions who arrives to LA from NYC (the title refers to, you guessed it, her disdain for NO ONE walking in Los Angeles) to work on her latest piece.
You KNOW Martine is trouble because the movie opens with a scene in which she acts very intimately (though certain lines are never crossed) with a man who we can only assume is her boyfriend, but turns out is just a guy she met on a plane. You see Martine is the kind of girl you fall in love with on a plane. She is ALSO the kind of girl who lets you kiss her as you get off said plane. She is ALSO the kind of girl who JUST AS things may get a little more complicated for her after said kiss, pulls away, pushes you aside and then STILL lets you drive her to whatever her destination is. For Martine is ALSO a girl that can’t drive. She is a girl in need, and as we all know, men have historically ALWAYS been attracted to a woman in need.
Once Martine is dropped off at her destination, we get a little back story: she is there to work on some bug movie, and a friend of a friend of the lady of the house named Julie (a supremely casually elegant Rosemarie DeWitt) suggested she get some sound help from her sound engineer husband Peter (a wonderfully understated John Krasinski).
Rounding out this Chekhovian set up (Martine is the proverbial gun) is Julie’s teenage daughter from her first marriage Kolt (India Ennenga, in great precocious form), their son, Julie’s ex Leroy (Dylan McDermott, all swagger and aging rock’n'rollness), Peter’s bright blonde assistant David, Kolt’s Italian teacher, and Julie’s patient Billy (the always delightfully smarmy Justin Kirk). Everyone involved is smart, educated, good looking, and charming. Everyone is ALSO seemingly perpetually on the brink of something inappropriate here but they all exist in a careful equilibrium, guided by their morals and/or loyalties. But said equilibrium is affected by Martine’s arrival. For she, like a little captive that she is (remember, nobody walks and she doesn’t drive) is now stuck in this place, and with these people without anywhere to run, she focuses her considerable charms and built-in neediness on people around her. And, well, nothing and no one will ever be the same.
I am not going to go into details who kisses whom and who plays with whose heart because, even with a limited character palette, you’d still be constantly looking names up in the paragraphs above. What I will makes sure I tell you all about is just how terrific the performances are.
The movie is 1:22 minutes long (credits included) and everyone involved jams so much emotion into it that it is an almost un-human feat that all of this doesn’t spiral wildly into crazy, overacted melodrama. Instead, everyone here is a masterclass in subtlety (even the teenagers, which, come to think of it, may be somewhat unrealistic). Observing it all, Director Ry Russo-Young (who co-wrote the script with GIRLS/Tiny Furniture phenom Lena Dunham) lingers on her actors just a touch too long, perfecting the false sense of intimacy everyone seems to be all-of-a-sudden feeling with everyone, creating a sort of a emotional claustrophobia that, as I mentioned before, can be quite uncomfortable to watch.
Martine is, in my humble opinion, the worst kind of person: the kind that takes action without considering the consequences, the kind of person that refuses to accept responsibility for said actions, the kind of person who has, probably, been forgiven one time too many. Thrilby, normally a very likable actress, play her with a certain detached emotional ambiguity (and physical availability) that is both completely believable and hopefully unrelatable (this latter part is a hope, for your own good readers). And, as the movie rushes toward its inevitable messy but civilized ending, if you are a human with a soul, it will have poured salt on some kind of heartache wound you hoped you’d forgotten by now.Which, I imagine, is a compliment to the naturalism of acting/filmmaking involved but it may just hit a little too close to some homes.
In the end, you’re just happy this isn’t you you’re watching, because one quick break in the equilibrium, and it could be.