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A meditation on isolation and intersection in the big city - the layered story of three characters who find courage to move to the next stage of life through profound encounters with strangers they meet on their daily routes. Rose, an optometrist paralyzed by crushing grief after the death of her infant, has built a wall around herself, unable to relate to her estranged husband or anyone else. When an elderly patient, a painter losing his eyesight, begins to visit her office unannounced, Rose registers how alone he is, urging him to reach out and ask for help--something neither does easily. Meanwhile Simon, a late-blooming teenager with an overbearing mother, photographs people at a distance with a borrowed long lens. One day, Rose, beautiful and melancholy in a vibrant scarf, comes into focus in his camera sight. The pictures he shoots become a conduit for each of them to touch something deep within and expand their confining existence. - Caroline LibrescoWritten by
The Sundance Film Guide
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A meandering film which is ultimately going nowhere
Ah, look at all the lonely people. Adrift in Manhattan focuses on three very lonely New Yorkers whose lives are destined to intersect. Heather Graham has the role which is meant to tie the plot together. She plays optometrist Rose Phipps, a woman who has suffered a great loss and who now lives alone while trying to piece her life back together. Dominic Chianese plays our second main character, Tommaso, an elderly painter, classical music enthusiast and mailroom worker. As we meet him he is being informed by Rose that he is going blind. And then there is young photo shop worker Simon, played by Victor Rasuk. One day Simon sees Rose sitting on a bench in the park and decides to more or less become a stalker, following her around the city taking her picture. He even follows her all the way home, taking pictures of her through the windows. Creepy? You bet.
As the film progresses we learn more about each of these characters. We learn why it is that Rose is seemingly alone in the world. We learn that Simon is extremely shy and withdrawn, apparently having very little idea of how to relate to people. This may have something to do with his mother with whom he has one of the most uncomfortably, bizarrely affectionate parent/child relationships ever seen. The focus of the story really is Rose and Simon. Which is a shame because Tommaso is far and away the most interesting character in the film. We see his frustrations as he deals with his failing sight, blindness akin to a death sentence for this simple but proud man who so loves to paint. And we see him fall in love with a much younger woman from his office, Isabel, played by Elizabeth Peña. Their relationship tugs at the heartstrings, their interactions always compelling. And Chianese and Peña easily give the best performances in the film. Rather unfortunately it seems the movie is always rushing through Tommaso's scenes so the focus can get back to Rose.
The film meanders about, cutting back and forth between our three main protagonists. But the story never really pays itself off. Tommaso is compelling, Rose somewhat less so, and Simon, barely even communicative, hard to identify with. Eventually Rose does something which makes absolutely no sense, something you would never believe anyone in her position would even conceive of doing, and from there the movie really falls apart. For a film which seemed to have some genuine promise, especially in Tommaso's story, in the end it just kind of limply fizzles out. Chianese did excellent work and created a great character and he and Peña work together wonderfully. But the story which surrounds them ultimately falls flat.
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