Posted: Mon., Jun. 24, 2002, 6:53pm PT

Charlotte Sometimes

A Visionbox Pictures presentation. (International sales: Visionbox Media, L.A.) Produced by Marc Ambrose, Eric Byler. Executive producers, John Bard Manulis, Michael Kastenbaum. Co-producers, Chris Miller, Brooke Dammkoehler, Lara Lyon. Directed, written by Eric Byler. Story, Byler, Jeff Liu.

Michael - Michael Idemoto
Darcy - Jacqueline Kim
Lori - Eugenia Yuan
Justin - Matt Westmore
Auntie Margie - Shizuko Hoshi
Annie - Kimberly Rose

Eric Byler's nuanced "Charlotte Sometimes" avoids easy sentiments and explanations for the complicated mysteries of four young people whose lives intersect over several days in the funky environs of L.A.'s Echo Park. What is notable in Byler's treatment is how a relationship drama that could have drifted into the pathetic actually gains strength by the reel. Pic is positioned as a fine fest entry but will probably struggle to attract the right distrib that knows how to market a quiet, adult film.


The notably cinematic storytelling, suggesting influence from the school of minimalist Asian cinema, presents Michael (Michael Idemoto), who manages his aunt's hilly duplex and lives upstairs from frisky tenant Lori (Eugenia Yuan). Lori likes Michael but has frequent and frequently noisy sex with b.f. Justin (Matt Westmore). Michael runs his family's auto repair business by day, and reads books by Camus at night, while remaining quite attentive to his aunt (Shizuko Hoshi).

In his own subdued way, Michael has a crush for Lori, but like so many of the film's emotional undercurrents, this is revealed gradually, with utterly no manipulation of events for an overt effect. Less subtle is the appearance of Darcy (Jacqueline Kim) in a club that Michael haunts, seemingly leading him on to a tenuous sexual encounter while dropping hints that she's not for him. "I'm not anyone's type," Darcy baldly tells him. "Men don't want to be around me; they only think they do."

On such delicate and dangerous ground does Byler's film travel, managing even the convincing revelation that Darcy and Lori have known each other for awhile, and that Michael's meeting this mysterious woman was no accident.

As Darcy nudges the four central characters together, Byler wisely bypasses dramatic fireworks for what emerges as a more despairing and bittersweet denouement than might have been expected. The deft shading he elicits from his thesps is of a piece with his dramatics and his understated, artful approach to compositions and movement.

Repping one of the best video-to-film transfers yet, pic looks terrific in Rob Humphreys' lensing, which dwells on deep, dappled shadows and a striking use of high-intensity colors.

Camera (Alpha Cine Labs color), Rob Humphreys; editor, Byler, Ken Kashima; music, Michael Brook; songs, Cody Chestnutt; production designer, Robert Shinso; costume designer, Marianne Kai; sound, Gary Day; sound designer, Bradley North; assistant director, Marc Ambrose; casting, Stacy V. Herman. Reviewed at Kodak screening room, L.A., June 6, 2002. (In Los Angeles Film Festival.) Running time: 85 MIN.

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