The great joy of a film festival is that you are able to take chances and see something that you know nothing about and then be surprised.
I knew nothing about "Exit Elena".
I knew nothing about director Nathan Silver.
I didn't know if it was a horror film, a romance, a comedy, a documentary...nothing. I hadn't even read the blurb in the festival program.
I just took a chance.
The titular Elena (played by one of the films writers Kia Davis) is an assistant nurse; a sort of live-in nursing assistant who gets her first job living with and working for the Akerman family. Her job is to care for the elderly grandmother of the family who lives with her son and daughter in law. The Akermans are friendly and welcoming but Elena, intially, shows little interest in them other than in fulfilling her duties. Over her time she grows closer to the family and eventually becomes one of them in all but name until an unfortunate incident sees her lose her job and, consequently, her home.
Shot in a documentary style and with much in common with the mumblecore likes of "Hannah Takes the Stairs" and "Humpday" "Exit Elena" manages to elevate itself above and beyond those films by creating a sense of reality and tangible tension that is missing in many actual documentaries and from most of the mumblecore scene. The camera is never intrusive and we are allowed to simply observe the characters as they talk, sleep, argue, eat and play...quickly one is immersed in the world of the film.
This is down, largely, to the incredible work of Nathan Silver. He has managed to produce a film that looks incredible (the locations and the lighting are perfect) and that also manages to hold the audience firmly in its grasp from start to finish. That "hold" stems from the fact that one is constantly waiting for something to happen although you are never quite sure what it is that you think should be happening and from the superb performances of the cast.
There are several "mockumentaries" and found footage movies but none of them hold a candle to this low budget gem. A great script, believable action, interesting characters and a feeling, at its conclusion, that there are more questions to be asked and more answers to be found from another viewing.
I took a chance and was rewarded a hundred times over.
You should take a chance too.
"Exit Elena" is showing at Cineworld on the 24th and 25th June at 19:20 and 18:20 respectively.