Director Lynn Shelton returns with this week’s new release Outside In. In the movie, Jay Duplass plays Chris, a man who returns to his hometown after spending 20 some years in prison. One of the people he reconnects with is Carol (Eddie Falco) a high school teacher of his who has spent a significant chunk of those 20 years, it seems, trying to get him released.
When Chris is back out in the world he make a point to spend more and more time with Carol. That’s because through all her efforts to free him he’s come to feel he’s in love with her and is convinced she loves him. Complicating matters is not just that they were once teacher and student but that she’s married and has a daughter.
Carol and Chris, understandably, are the most prominent elements of the poster, him seen riding his bike and looking pretty happy in a translucent photo of her. As if the metaphor wasn’t clear, the copy says “Things are never the same on the outside.”
Chris is just getting out of prison in 20 years and celebrating with friends and family as the trailer opens. He’s understandably awkward and unsure of himself after all this time. Carol is referred to at the party as the person responsible for getting him out of prison, but it’s not clear why or how. It isn’t until later, when he’s meeting Carol’s husband and family, that it’s explained she was part of some effort to clear his name or at least have him released. Her husband isn’t thrilled that she’s spending time with him since that’s apparently all she’s done recently. Despite that, Carol and Chris spend more and more time together. Chris admits he’s in love with her but that’s not a place she’s at for a number of reasons.
Falco in particular looks great here as the woman who has spent years and years trying to save this one guy but then is put in an awkward, uncomfortable (and unfair) position by him because he’s become somewhat obsessed with her. There’s just enough of the story to show the two of them do have a bond but that it’s both more intense than what she would like while being not as intense as he wants. One thing that’s not addressed is whether or not Chris did what he was in prison for, which could change the tone of the story significantly.
Online and Social
Nothing I can see, which isn’t unusual for The Orchard.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Also nothing on this front, though I’m not surprised with such a small movie with an admittedly limited appeal.
Media and Publicity
The Orchard acquired the movie shortly before its scheduled debut screening at the Toronto Film Festival. Around the time of that screening a batch of stills were released giving us our first look at the movie. After that it was also screened at the SXSW Film Festival. While in Austin the cast and crew talked about the themes and message of the story, including Falco commenting on the injustice of women over 40 not having the same opportunities for romantic stories as younger women.
I kind of feel like this movie’s being forgotten, overlooked in the new reality of every season being blockbuster season. There’s no way it was going to compete on publicity or advertising scale with some of the other new releases coming out this week, but there’s still a surprising lack of conversation even among the more serious-minded members of Film Twitter.
There’s a darkness to the story that’s being sold here. Chris is obsessed, that much is clear, but it’s left unspoken whether that obsession turns violent or if he fades off in the landscape when it becomes clear his feelings will not be returned. As it is, what’s shown for the audience is a very personal story. It’s unclear if that story will focus more on the long-term impact of imprisonment or the danger presented by someone who’s only seen one ray of light for 20 years.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.