“Finding your own path”, “being true to yourself”, “living life on your own terms” – all familiar themes from the emotional dramas of the 2020s. The words may not always be the same, but the sentiments are, and some of them are already borderline clichés. And that’s part of the problem at the heart of Isabel del Rosal’s debut feature, Walk With Me.
Amber (Devin Dunne Cannon) has hit thirty. She married Ethan (Daniel Fox) when she was young and has known little of life other than being a wife and mother to Emily (Grant E Ginsberg). But the marriage has run its course, she decides to leave and sets up home in an apartment, courtesy of estate agent Logan (Bridget Barkan). When the two accidentally run into each other again, their friendship grows quickly and starts to turn into something else. Except that Amber has never been in a relationship with a woman, so her fears and insecurities get in the way, as do the attitudes of others. Her first real chance for true happiness is slipping through her fingers.
We’ve been here before and often. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem and, while the film wears its romantic credentials loud and proud on it sleeve, the story and the way it’s executed is neither. The obvious glow that goes with being in love, the distress of a first argument and the problems faced by the couple are riddled with familiarity and, together with the soft focus photography, have an air of a tick-box exercise about them. Instead of warming our hearts, it makes us stifle a yawn or two, made worse by the sense that any opportunities to create something with real drama – Logan’s accidental encounter with her estranged mother fizzles out before it has a chance to get started – have all gone to waste, with the director/writer settling for something safer, but less satisfying.
It’s not helped by the ever-present thought that any so-called “different” relationship – age, race, religion or anything else – would face the same difficulties, making it fall short of giving us a real insight into their experience. And, together with a script that seems determined to skim the surface, the sad twang of hollowness is almost audible. There are some redeeming features that give a glimpse of what might have been. The occasional flash of physical comedy, and a likeable performance from Barkan, whose Logan has another life as a singer: Barkan performs some of the film’s specially composed songs and she a great voice, as well as a stage presence that you wish spilt over into the rest of the film.
The title suggests a romantic, leisurely stroll along the beach. What we get is something that’s harder work and a film that had the potential to be so much more.
Drama, Romance | Cert: tbc | BFI Flare, 23 and 25 March.| Dir. Isabel del Rosal | Devin Dunne Cannon, Bridget Barkan, Daniel Fox, Grant E Ginsberg