Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Open Casting Call - 2 Male Leads in New Feature Film From the Producers of 'Pariah' & 'Yelling to the Sky' Open Casting Call - 2 Male Leads in New Feature Film From the Producers of 'Pariah' & 'Yelling to the Sky' "Stakes Is High" in First Trailer for Season 2 of STARZ Hit Drama Series 'Power' (Returns This Summer) "Stakes Is High" in First Trailer for Season 2 of STARZ Hit Drama Series 'Power' (Returns This Summer) An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay Watch Teaser for 'Being Mary Jane' Season 2 + Details on Story, Guest Stars Watch Teaser for 'Being Mary Jane' Season 2 + Details on Story, Guest Stars Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

PAFF 2013 Review: Unconventional Dark Romance 'Apartment 4E' Anchored By Challenging, Compelling Performances

Shadow and Act By Vanessa Martinez | Shadow and Act February 14, 2013 at 9:14PM

Screening at the ongoing Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, now in the latter half of this year's run, is Russell Sharman’s micro-budget indie Apartment 4E (previously titled Small Of Her Back) - a two-character dark romance about Piper (Nicole Beharie), a young woman diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder who gets a knock on her door by John (newcomer Christopher Domig), a man who claims to be the brother of a Molly; the latter is a woman Piper has built an online relationship with for the past three months.
3
Small of her back still

Screening at the ongoing Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, now in the latter half of this year's run, is Russell Sharman’s micro-budget indie Apartment 4E (previously titled Small Of Her Back) - a two-character dark romance about Piper (Nicole Beharie), a young woman diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder who gets a knock on her door by John (newcomer Christopher Domig), a man who claims to be the brother of a Molly; the latter is a woman Piper has built an online relationship with for the past three months.

Apartment 4E – described as a “suicidal shut in” - has the feel of a stage play, especially the scenes – where most of the film takes place – between Piper and John in Piper’s small, clustered apartment. And it’s no surprise; writer/director Sharman adapted his 2008 stage play of the same name to the screen.

It’s not a film for everyone; but one that I definitely appreciated for its script - intelligent, clever wordplay and original, unpredictable twists - and compelling performances by Beharie and Domig. And perhaps it’s not a film for everyone because its references to “catching a meaning”, its in-depth mental illness/Psychiatry terminology and a book of poems called Constance by Jane Kenyon, as well as what may be seen as a wacky – rather unconventional, some will call theatrical – performance by Beharie may be lost on some.

sm of her back still

But that’s why I also enjoyed this film.  I do not recall a film with a black female lead – actually Halle Berry’s Frankie and Alice comes to mind - that is as complex, challenging, and devoid of racial references as this one. Taking in consideration that the film was shot over 14 days and the actors rehearsed for only two, the results are pretty amazing.

When we first meet Piper in her apt as she sticks pieces of notepaper all over her walls and in monologue attempting to come up with specific words, we can’t quite figure out her eccentric antics. John, a lonesome, melancholic character comes to Piper’s door and tries to convince her that he’s Molly’s brother. After hearing Piper fire a gun, he breaks in the door and eventually settles in her apartment.

Piper is moody and compulsive; she’s manic; she’s unpredictable; welcoming and flirtatious one minute and angry, defensive, homicidal and suicidal the next.  She lives in a fantasy world –it’s safe- in which her online “friend” Molly, whom she has never met/seen aside from the “four little flat pictures and characters on the screen”, really loves her.

The mystery lies in finding out the intentions of these two characters. Why is John so adamant in trying “to help” Piper? Is he really Molly’s brother? Piper isn’t naïve, and as the film progresses she outsmarts John as she solves the puzzle.  Domig, a newcomer with a few credits under his belt, pulls off a rich and layered performance as the observant, seemingly kind-natured John. The two unlikely characters have chemistry; and even though there’s no explicit romance, there’s plenty of tension.

I couldn’t help thinking of the taboos of mental illness, especially in the black community. It’s easy to label Piper and say, “She’s crazy”. Yet, it’s not because she’s a “crack-head”. Piper is incredibly astute and bright. It’s also difficult to overlook her beauty, but Beharie is able to pull it off convincingly. Another aspect which adds complexity and the element of taboo is her character's dubious sexuality. Is she a Lesbian? Bi? Does it matter?

For its very limited budget, the film’s cinematography by Noah Yuan-Vogel is quite stunning.

It’s not a perfect film; some scenes had an experimental feel to them. Yet, the film’s distinct peculiarities stay with you long after watching it, which is why I found Apartment 4E intellectually stimulating and gripping.

One Village Entertainment picked up worldwide rights to the film last month, for release later this year.

In the meantime, it'll screen again at the PAFF on Sunday.

For updates, follow up the film on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SmallOfHerBack

small of her back poster

Shadow & ActNewsletter